Anyone within the Central Tibetan Administration (formerly the exiled Government of Tibet now CTA) care to explain why on earth the editorial team of their website has featured a promotional review of a film which, while posing as an artful exploration of lives and communities transformed through economic and infrastructure developments, is essentially propaganda.
Last time we checked the CTA (headed by Doctor Lobsang Sangay) was, apart from peddling an appeasement deal-of- surrender to China, engaged in exposing and opposing the suppression of Tibet and erosion of Tibetan culture. It regularly issues statements and reports on the expansionist agenda of China, cautions the international community on the corrosive influence of Chinese corporations and regularly criticizes projects, that have exploited and massively degraded the environment of occupied Tibet. From concerns about Huawei to open hostility towards mining companies which are opening up Tibetan mountains the CTA has a respected and established record of challenging and reporting upon the genuine concerns posed by China’s political, economic and corporate objectives.
With that in mind the decision of its website to give such full-page prominence to ‘Common Destiny’ (a film receiving the approval and support of China’s regime) and heavily promoted by the propaganda mouth-piece Xinhua during it’s screening at the Venice Film Festival in September, is all the more baffling.
The editors of the CTA site have copied and pasted a review written by Tom Baxter, formerly working in communications at Greenpeace East Asia, the environmental campaigning organization with offices in China that’s offered not a word of opposition or critique on the nuclear poisoning of occupied Tibet and East Turkistan. Does that explain the ‘softly-softly’ content of the author? He seems to broadly follow the official narrative issued by the film makers, a story of individual lives seemingly transformed by the controversial development project run by China’s regime. The series of inspiring personal stories from differing countries where the project operates, while no doubt uplifting serve another and darker purpose. Did such an objective, we speculate, concern New Zealand Director Martin Campbell, British screen-writer Guy Hibbert or the American director of photography? Perhaps they were too consumed by the allure of assembling of people centered accounts of hopes and dreams? Uncaring that these tales of realization come with a troubling economic and environmental cost. A fact well known to those countries signed into a developmental program of Chinese economic hegemony
But this ‘documentary’ was never going to consider such contexts, the crippling debts, failed infrastructure projects or the political and economic dominance imposed upon those partnering governments by China’s regime. No inclusion or reference to the environmental impacts of such developments. Those major issues had no place in this carefully engineered propaganda, the audience is engaged with the various personal narratives, distracted by the emotion, struggle and relative triumphs. A strategy which no doubt was factored into the film from its beginnings and obediently employed by six other (Chinese) directors all of whom were approved by China’s government! The production company behind this exercise in disinformation was none other than Beijing Silk Road Media Group, a public-relations arm of the project and by extension fully committed to the ideology and dictates of China’s regime. Interestingly its producer Liang Yan claimed at the screening that the film is not backed by government, anyone buying into that should seek reality counseling immediately!
There is no genuinely independent film-making within China especially when the subject is a cornerstone of the Chinese regime’s global economic policy. As such there would have been a very close scrutiny of its production. content and promotion, what has been produced is yet another slick, emotion focused distraction that promotes the supposed triumphs of the Belt Road Strategy. It also features key propaganda themes exemplified by the account of a Uyghur boy dreaming of winning a basketball scholarship. Touching story, right? But wait a minute while young Yusuf Jiang (note the Chinese second name) is aspiring to realize such ambitions Uyghur children of all ages are being torn from their families and detained within indoctrination centers to be brainwashed into obedient Chinese speaking citizens. Did that well-documented reality not trouble Martin Campbell or Guy Hibbert? Would not their creative talents not be better served by making a documentary on the cultural genocide waged against Tibet or the Uyghur homeland of East Turkistan?
What also of the Central Tibetan Administration and its promotion of this Chinese orchestrated disinformation? Was it some gross error of editorial judgement that decided to feature this film on their site? A calculated decision to curry favor with China, a signal of further appeasement? No matter the reasons, giving publicity to such propaganda while the same regime behind the film is waging a genocidal assault against Tibet’s culture and national identity raises worrying questions. Particularly for any Tibetan who expects their exiled Administration to be championing the just cause of national freedom rather than uncritically disseminating the lies and disinformation of China’s government!