We would like from the outset to make clear our genuine admiration and respect for those working tirelessly at the Tibetan Center For Human Rights and Democracy, their organization is a highly valued source for information on human rights violations in occupied Tibet. It’s bulletins and annual reports have informed governments, the United Nations, media, non-governmental bodies for a number of years, ensuring that China’s violent oppression of the Tibetan people is given public exposure. During that time we have been happy to draw upon the reports issued by the TCHRD, who provide up to date and accurate news from across Tibet, however there has been a recent development in their reportage which is a cause for some concern. We offer the following observations, in a spirit of positive criticism, in the hope that our colleagues within TCHRD will review matters.
It is well known that propaganda is an important element of China’s illegal occupation of Tibet, indeed China’s regime operates a well oiled machine of disinformation, in an unceasing ideological war to assert as fact, its bogus claims that Tibet is historically and culturally part of China. Central to such deceit has been the cynical renaming of Tibetan regions and place names into Chinese versions, such toxic fabrications convey the impression that such territory is Chinese. These falsehoods have been assisted by a largely servile and appeasing international media, whose often indolent journalists unthinkingly repeat such propaganda, for an example of such troubling journalism see here.
Given the degree of appeasement demonstrated by a corrupted mainstream media towards China we cannot be too surprised that correspondents are happy to collaborate in peddling China’s lies, but it is more difficult to understand how any organization dedicated to ensuring factual and independent reportage on Tibet would feature a similar misrepresentation, and in so doing be removing Tibetan territory from the world map.
For some time now the Tibetan Center For Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) has been following an editorial policy that consistently describes towns and regions, which are clearly Tibetan, as being Chinese, using terms such as ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ ‘Qinghai’ or ‘Sichuan’ with no qualifying context to inform readers that such locations are in reality in occupied Tibet and have been forcefully renamed as being within China. Here’s a report that illustrates the point
“TCHRD has received the first-ever pictures of Khaying and Choepel, the two Tibetan teenagers who self-immolated on 7 October 2011, protesting against Chinese rule, in Ngaba County town, Sichuan Province“ (emphasis added Source: http://www.tchrd.org/press/2011/pr20111213.html
Yet the town in question is actually located within the traditional Tibetan region of Amdo, although anciently once part of neighboring Kham, following China’s invasion of Tibet these areas were renamed as Chinese provinces, an imposed fabrication that TCHRD now features in its reports.
Now it can of course be argued that in repeating these terms TCHRD is simply reporting a current political ‘reality’ however even if that were so surely it is not asking too much of a Tibetan organization to provide its subscribers with a more factual context, to ensure that readers are not mislead into considering such locations as being within China. For example would it not be possible to describe the quote above in the following fashion:
“TCHRD has received the first-ever pictures of Khaying and Choepel, the two Tibetan teenagers who self-immolated on 7 October 2011, protesting against Chinese rule, in Ngaba a town in the occupied Tibetan region of Amdo (annexed by China and renamed on current maps as being within Sichuan Province” )
It is unclear why TCHRD has embraced this troubling form of reportage, perhaps there is a view that such policy invests greater credibility, that in using China’s authorized descriptions it somehow appears objectively detached from the subject of its reports. Maybe it is simply following the trend of mainstream media, which regularly features China’s propaganda terminology on Tibet, does it see this issue as a fait accompli and shifted its policy accordingly? Whatever the reasons, in employing China’s carefully constructed deceptions, readers are being short-changed on the facts and given a misleading and erroneous impression.
From a journalistic perspective there is a duty to exercise and respect balance, integrity and factual context when reporting any item, we wonder if such values are being served by simply repeating China’s poisonous disinformation, minus any redeeming factual background? The question also invites a response in terms of ethics. Nobody knows more acutely than the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy what the people of Tibet are facing China’s bullets, torture and prison for.Their archives are full of accounts of protests, individual and collective that demand national freedom for Tibet, the tireless staff of TCHRD realize, that for their compatriots in occupied Tibet, the subject of Tibetan territory lies at the very heart of the struggle.
We consider the description of Tibetan territories and locations as Chinese provinces, or within such, to be inaccurate, this is unfortunate and creates a misleading impression for many, who respect the TCHRD as a source of reliable information on Tibet. We hope you understand our concerns on this matter and may through a spirit of solidarity and cooperation, consider reviewing your policy of using Chinese sanctioned descriptions, as it plants a distortion into the thinking of those who may have have little knowledge on Tibet. It is our sincere hope that you will receive this appeal in the positive spirit in which it is offered. With respect and admiration for your fine work