Communist China’s machinery of media manipulation, so slyly successful during the earthquake in Sichuan 2008, the Tibetan uprising of that year, and also applied during the violent suppression of Uyghur protests in Urumchi in 2009, has once again moved into duplicitous and cynical action. China’s totalitarian regime is obsessed with control, and ever careful to present, a troublingly uncritical world, images which conform to its ideology, political agenda and public relations objectives. It must be remembered that the communist party of China is engaged in a psychological and ideological war to polish its somewhat tarnished international image, and equally importantly assert its claims over areas of intense sensitivity such as Tibet and East Turkestan.
Natural disasters, such as the current earthquake, particular given the fact its has struck within a traditional and once independent Tibetan region, affords China’s propaganda Ministry a valuable opportunity to enforce such objectives. Aware of the international attention this tragic event has attracted the communist authorities are taking all measures to engineer a suitably pro-China media profile, one that promotes sympathy for ‘China’s loss and admiration for its response. Central to that calculation is a cynical manipulation and control of international media reportage by asserting that the earthquake took place, not in Tibetan territory, but within so-called Qinghai Province (an imposed Chinese name upon annexed Tibetan regions of Amdo and Kham following China’s invasion of 1950). Beijing was very quick to extract as much propaganda value as possible by cold-heartedly promoting this event as ‘China’s earthquake’, the destruction, deaths and injuries suffered by ‘Chinese’ people; and the rescue efforts, triumphantly administered by ‘heroic’ Chinese forces. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/asia-pacific/8621800.stm It has learned very valuable lesson in terms of media spin from events in Tibet and East Turkestan, now it has a complaint western media on a very tight leash, not that such control seems to bother some major media organizations. Only last year Beijing hosted a number of international media moguls to a lavish party and conference http://tibettruth.com/2009/10/08/media-moguls-party-in-beijing/ at which no doubt cordial reactions and discrete agreements were reached concerning press coverage of China.
Communist China’s official propaganda mouthpiece, Xinhua has imposed what is effectively blanket reportage, dominating subsequent media exposure of the earthquake on the Internet and via broadcasters by crafting its preferred news-narrative and as ever monitoring and censoring open discussion across China’s internet. According to a some reports, a prominent Chinese social site, Baidu, has censored any discussion of the Tibetan earthquake, by preventing any searches for the term ’Qinghai’. Meanwhile news agencies in the region are robotically following the dictates issued by communist China’s propaganda chief in so-called ‘Qinghai’, one Jidi Majia who has demanded that China’s media act ‘responsibly’ (a euphemism for compliance and obedience to the state) An item in the New Yorker quoted Jidia demanding China’s media:
“To be responsible, to strengthen the role of guiding public opinion, strengthen political consciousness in propaganda work. We must be ready to accommodate media from outside the province, and let everyone see the spirit of the Qinghai Province people, see that we are not afraid of difficulties.”
Foreign media have certainly been ‘accommodated’ and for obedient compliance to the tightly controlled demands of reporting within communist China, they are rewarded with daily propaganda sessions, which barely pose as press briefings, permitted ‘access‘ to restricted sites, and an occasional interview with a rescue official or medical worker. Through such manipulation and by encouraging certain favoured journalists and ‘responsible’ media organizations, the communist Chinese authorities are able to peddle their disinformation to a gullible international audience. So we have news reports across the Internet, TV and Radio uncritically repeating China’s cynical fabrications, no doubt the communist authorities sought to maximise the opportunity to encourage international sympathy by callously misrepresenting this earthquake as one that struck China and the Chinese people. Such deception of course would be far harder to achieve without the supine cooperation of some prominent and globally influential media outlets such as the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC). An organization with a worrying record of peddling Chinese disinformation http://tibettruth.com/2009/07/19/communist-china-to-screen-bbc-whitewash-of-tibet/ and which was found ‘guilty’ by its own Commissioners of promoting Chinese propaganda on Tibet. http://tibettruth.com/2009/05/29/bbc-peddled-chinese-propaganda/ Interestingly the coverage of the earthquake by the BBC is in stark contrast to that of its English rival, Independent Television News, which we are informed was reporting on events and mentioning Tibet, Tibetans and even the Dalai Lama.
The BBC’s coverage of events on April 14 was extremely careful to avoid any reference whatsoever to either ‘Tibet’ or ‘Tibetans‘, instead hourly news bulletins referred to ‘Qinghai Province’ and ‘Western China’ and chose not to inform its viewers and listeners that the victims were mostly Tibetans or that this was a Tibetan region. The reports may well have been drafted by China’s propaganda agency and no doubt greatly pleased the Chinese authorities, who would be desperate to prevent Tibetans receiving any more international sympathy. It may not be realized by those-of-us not based in England, but the BBC is part of a political establishment and closely associated with, and funded by, the English Foreign Office. That Government Department, which is the equivalent to the Department of State, has long followed a course of appeasing China to secure and maintain trade relations. It is implacably opposed to any idea of an independent Tibet and rejects any notion of Tibetan national identity. It’s advisers act as the pre-eminent authority on all things China, and the BBC’s policy on China is largely determined by such attitudes, which would explain its shameful reportage and willingness to regurgitate what was official Chinese propaganda.
Sadly it is not only within major media such as the BBC that such censorship and misrepresentation occurs, those kind-hearted individuals who work within NGOs trying to bring limited aid to Tibetans find themselves in the ethically difficult and sensitive position of having to collaborate with the occupying Chinese Regime. In order to operate within Chinese occupied Tibet they are forced to make troubling compromises, imposing upon themselves a censorship of silence on overtly political and issues sensitive to the Chinese regime. While their limited efforts to aid Tibetans is to be applauded, they are in effect being manipulated and exploited by China for purposes of propaganda. In terms of moral principle collaboration with a tyranny such as communist China’s is extremely troubling and their complicity inevitably raises questions that NGO engagement legitimizes China’s occupation Whatever the facts of that fraught area of debate, it certainly results in a censorship from those who have chosen to ‘cooperate’ with the communist authorities, as any criticism or exposure of sensitive subjects will mean no further visas!
Take this example http://www.bbc.co.uk/worldservice/news/2010/04/100414_china_quake_hs.shtml which featured in the BBC’s radio coverage of the earthquake on April 14, involving two NGO reports by Mr Francis Markus of the International Committee of the Red Cross and Ms. Diana Dodd, who works with Rokpa that runs projects inside Chinese occupied Tibet, Commenting on the situation in Jyekundo, following the devastation of the earthquake, during the entire interview neither person, no doubt compassionate and dedicated supporters of Tibet’s people, made a reference to either ‘Tibetans’ or Jyekundo when outlining the situation. Were we witnessing a self-imposed censorship by these NGOs, or some cynical editing by the BBC? Whatever the case, the truth was misrepresented and China’s propaganda objectives dutifully supported. The traumatized Tibetans of Jyekundo, who will be once again under the oppressive rule of the very forces, which so willingly posed for the appeasing lenses of western media, have little to thank China’s ever so supportive and compliant friends for.
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