Thursday, March 27, 2008

In Canada, Chinese Media Stir Up Anger Against Tibetans

Some Chinese in Toronto plan rally in support of Chinese regime stance
By Matthew Little and Jason Loftus
Mar 27, 2008

FLAGS OF THEIR FATHERS: A young Tibetan girl participates in an oil-lamp vigil with about 500 Tibetans in exile in Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 21. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)
FLAGS OF THEIR FATHERS: A young Tibetan girl participates in an oil-lamp vigil with about 500 Tibetans in exile in Kathmandu, Nepal, on March 21. (Prakash Mathema/AFP/Getty Images)

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It was the kind of tightly scripted broadcast typical of state-run television in China. The narrator introduced the story: "Incited and masterminded by the Dalai Lama clique, a few criminals did beating, smashing, looting, and arson in downtown Lhasa, causing huge damage to people's lives and property."

Statements like this one, which opened a March 23 documentary on the unrest in Tibet, have been beamed into the homes of Chinese Canadians over the last two weeks via the communist regime's China Central Television 4 channel, which airs on Rogers Cable.

Last week, CCTV 4's segments on Tibet ranged from a few to 15 minutes in length and aired up to eight times a day. Each presented a one-sided account of events inside Lhasa since protests began there March 10.

Contradicting reports that police had violently crushed the protests, CCTV 4 said Chinese authorities had used "maximum restraint," not retaliating under attack, not cursing when criticized.

Followers of the Dalai Lama, however, were described repeatedly as "lawless rioters," purveying "atrocities" on innocent people, who were quoted professing their "hatred" of the protesters.

"Their sinister intentions are to take advantage of the occasion of the forthcoming Beijing Olympic Games to undermine the stability and unity of the social environment, in an attempt to split Tibet from the motherland," the narrator surmised.

For full coverage please see Repression in Tibet

Soft Power

Once confined to mainland China's media, the communist party line has now become dominant in Chinese-language media overseas. Broadcasting agreements like the one with Rogers and expanding influence over many Chinese-language press have helped Beijing get its message out.

The effects of such coverage can be seen in a rally being planned in Toronto's Dundas Square this weekend.

An organizer of the "anti-violence" rally, who asked to be identified only as Chris, says the event seeks to tell the "truth" about Tibet.

A flyer promoting the event includes still images from CCTV with captions like "'Peaceful' Tibetan protesters set fire to Lhasa secondary school. 90 % classrooms destroyed."

"The violence [is] created by the Tibetan people," Chris said in an interview. "They are against all the other ethnic people; they just want to drive everyone out … The Chinese government didn't do anything wrong."

Chris, like other Chinese, says he trusts some of the largest Chinese daily newspapers in Canada, like Sing Tao Daily, to tell him what's really happening in Tibet.

Financial Ties

But many of the Chinese-language press have also in recent years adopted editorial slants closely in line with the Chinese regime.

The Jamestown Foundation, a U.S.-based non-partisan think-tank that monitors threats to democracy and freedom, analyzed Beijing's influence on overseas Chinese media in 2001.

It found that three of the four major Chinese newspapers published in the U.S., the Sing Tao Daily, Ming Pao Daily News, and The China Press, were under the direct influence of the Chinese communist government.

The fourth, World Journal, is run by a parent company in Taiwan and had increasingly given in to pressure from Mainland China, Jamestown said.

"The Chinese media spin the story as anti-Chinese riots instead of anti-government riots. They try to make it something against the Chinese people. It is not against the Chinese people." —Tsering Wangdu Shakya, University of British Columbia Tibet Scholar

Three of those newspapers, Sing Tao, Ming Pao, and World Journal, also have Canadian editions.

"As preparation for Hong Kong's return to China in 1997, the Chinese government made vigorous attempts in the early 1990s to purchase several major media agencies in Hong Kong. This was done through the use of third-party merchants who have close business ties with China," said the report.

In the case of Sing Tao, the regime provided financial help to then-owner Sally Aw Sian, who ran into a financial crisis in the late 1980s, Jamestown said. What followed was the paper's transformation into a pro-communist paper that even saw a former editor of The People's Daily (the Chinese regime's official mouthpiece) take the helm.

Though in Canada Sing Tao is now majority owned by TorStar, which also owns the English-language Toronto Star, the Canadian outfit receives China news from the parent Sing Tao company in Hong Kong.

Today, most of the largest Chinese-language newspapers in Canada carry pro-Beijing journalism very similar to that found in communist China. (The notable exception is the Chinese edition of The Epoch Times. ) The latest protests in Tibet provide many examples.

Familiar Words

The Epoch Times reviewed dozens of articles from The World Journal, Ming Pao Daily and Sing Tao Daily and found a consistent pattern of reporting that parroted the Chinese communist party's line on events unfolding in Tibet. The papers relied heavily on Chinese government sources and used inflammatory quotes throughout their reports.

Police were depicted repeatedly as non-violent and almost passive, "extremely restrained," and "not fighting back when being bitten." Early reports described soldiers as being present but rather than suppressing protesters they were claimed to be "sweeping the road and cleaning the streets." ( Sing Tao, March 15, 18)

Tibetans, meanwhile, were consistently depicted as violent, vicious, and responsible for beating police to death. (Ming Bao, March 21) Other reports blamed Tibetans for killing innocent civilians.

Coverage in the papers consistently repeated Beijing's line that the Dalai Lama was behind the "severe criminal violence" in Tibet—and the regime's claim that there was ample evidence to prove this—without citing what the evidence was.

The newspapers also frequently adopted terms used by the Chinese state-run media to describe the events in Lhasa, referring to the Tibetan government in exile as the "fake government" and using the more violent word "riot" instead of "protest" or "unrest."

In the final analysis, the articles create the impression that restrained police were doing their best to contain violent, anti-Chinese Tibetans who were part of a well-coordinated attack on Chinese residents, soldiers and police in Lhasa. The articles lacked the context for the protests and depicted Tibetans as wildly engaged in "robbing, burning, and killing" during what would otherwise be Tibet's "best time in history." ( World Journal, March 16, 17)

The message appears to be getting through. Many Chinese people in democratic countries, including Canada, believe Tibetans are completely to blame for the unrest.

An article in the World Journal said the organizers of the "anti-violence" rally had received thousands of comments on their web page.

Human Rights

This has China human rights activists concerned.

"We are pretty disturbed by the fact that Chinese people around the world including in Canada are so misinformed," said Michael Craig, Chair with the China Rights Network.

Mr. Craig noted that while many Tibetans have been killed and now "hundreds and hundreds" have been arrested, letters in the Globe and Mail that day revealed Chinese people in China and Toronto are up in arms about what they consider to be violent separatists in Tibet.

"It's a terrible shame that the propaganda of the Chinese government is working," he said.

University of British Columbia Tibet scholar Tsering Wangdu Shakya says apart from that, some Chinese may see supporting the crackdown as a "good opportunity to toe the party line."

"The more you cooperate with the government the more you are seen as a good person," he said, adding that visible participation may help Chinese students to get better jobs on returning to China.

But while Chinese media have depicted the protests as being engineered by the Dalai Lama and violent secessionists, Shakya says the true reason lies in a growing gap between the rich and the poor that has come about as the regime has encouraged Han Chinese flood into Tibet, marginalizing the Tibetan people.

"They [the Chinese media] spin the story as anti-Chinese riots, instead of anti-government riots," says Shakya. "They try to make it something against the Chinese people. It is not against the Chinese people."

Shakya said the largest gap between the rich and poor in China is within Tibet. Communist cadres are at the rich end, while average Tibetans at the poor, he says.

But grievances such as these are not mentioned in the Chinese media reports reviewed by Epoch Times staff for this story.

Which may explain why Chinese immigrants like Chris, who rely on such coverage are so convinced. Chris says his event has "received a lot of support."

Meanwhile, Tibetan supporters in Canada see the situation from an entirely different angle. Lobsang Khedup, president of Tibetan Youth Congress summed it up.

"Chinese people are suffering like us under the communist regime."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008


Ken said...

Since the Epoch Times Journalist violated her right as a journalist to get in on a White House Press conference to lead a politically charged protest against Bush's policy towards China and the Falun Dafa, I think the world is pretty well informed of the fact that the Epoch Times is as much a propaganda mouth piece against China, as CCTV is for China.

I find it insulting that Falun Dafa supporters assume Canadians of all ethnic backgrounds are somehow too ignorant of Asian affairs, to really know whats going on. Half the stated in this article can be challenged.

The fact that the article seems to deny the existence of racial profiling by Tibetans boggles my mind. Its pretty well known, even in the West that the Chinese population in Tibet have nothing to do with China's aggressive Policy towards Tibet. Yet the Tibetan protesters targeted them, killing women and children in the process.

In terms of Chinese propaganda in Canada, the viewers have the choice to watch Chinese or non-Chinese news. Its not propaganda if they had a choice. And the reality is, ALL of those Chinese-Canadian papers you talk about are privately owned. In fact, one of the papers (I believe Sing Tao) is owned by my parent company, TorStar Corporation. The same company that owns the Toronto Star.

Are you gonna accuse the Toronto Star of being some sort of Oriental mouth piece?

MaKina said...

I disagree with you on many points. Independent papers should be commended for not bowing to the Chinese regime. But it's too bad that mainstream media seem to be influenced by the communist power and this reflects in their reports. They seem to give ample space to Xinhua reports for example, etc.

The Jamestown Foundation explains in great detail why that is.

For instance, the Chinese people may not know that over 300 policemen were dressed as monks and started the violence. The monks were framed, like the students for Free China were framed in 1989 and like the Falun Gong were framed in 1999. That pattern is always the same one - vilify the victims to justify the killing.

That is nothing new for the Beijing dictators.

My knowledge is that most Chinese papers cater to the Communist Party.

Anonymous said...

After watching these slavering-jawed, wild-eyed fanatics attack people on the street who oppose their views, I have a pretty good idea of what democracy would look like under the rule of this mob.
As for boycotting the games in China: I had no plans to attend but I had placed a request for tickets to the winter games in Whistler. Since it is pretty apparent that the face of future protests, for whatever reason, will be violence and rioting, and since I have no desire to place either myself or my family in jeapordy, that request has been withdrawn. In addition, since I would hate to see any foreign visitor placed in harm's way by a mob that claims the democratic right to protest while denying it to others, I will make sure to hit every forign website and blog warning them to stay away.

MaKina said...

It sure looks like things are getting out of hand. Police brutality is real too - a reporter was hit hard over the head by a cop in Paris just the other day and that's just one example. They arrested 37 people in London. The Chinese men in blue have no business using force on protesters but they do. Staying away sounds like a good plan to me too.