Tibetans must be dancing in the streets of Lhasa today on the news that the Chinese regime has published: “Tibetan Million Serf Liberation (sic) Commemorative Album” (a picture book of disinformation and falsehoods which rewrites the reality of China’s invasion and occupation of Tibet). To launch this political fiction China’s propaganda mouthpiece Xinhua staged an event on September 11 in the Tibetan capital. Featuring of course compliant Tibetans who from their expressions look delighted to receive this latest misrepresentation of history. We imagine they will find it a compelling read, as noted by the Xinua official who addressed the mobilized audience:
“Marxism will further consolidate the guiding position of the ideological leadership, consolidate the common ideological basis of the united struggle of the entire party and the whole nation, and continuously consolidate and expand the mainstream ideological paradox. The spiritual and cultural life of the people of all ethnic groups in the district sang the main theme of “praising the new China and forging new era (sic) “.
As part of the so-called ‘patriotic education’ program this fact-free publication and its ideological drivel will be forced upon Tibetans across occupied Tibet over the coming months.
Chinese Communist Party head for U-Tsang region of occupied Tibet, Wu Yingjie, had a breakdown on Wednesday, announcing to a robotic audience of party loyalists that the Dalai Lama hasn’t done a “single good thing” for the territory.
Exhibiting clear delusional behavior he insisted that Tibetans are “extremely grateful for the prosperity that the Communist Party has brought them.”. That’s like a serial arsonist arguing that his destructive and deadly obsession is deeply appreciated by local fire fighters!
Beyond the fantasies and denial Mr Yingjie felt that his claims required some supposedly ‘independent’ corroboration so he called upon a Tibetan stooge to declare that ‘there’s no such thing as adoration for the Dalai Lama among Tibetans’.
Such stage-managed deceptions and propaganda of the Chinese regime will never alter the reality that in each Tibetan heart burns a devotion to the Dalai Lama and a hope that once day Tibet will regain its national freedom. At that time then the truth will emerge, without fear of Chinese torture, prison or forced-labor camps!
Let’s put it out there from the get go, non weird science can be amazing too, right? Perhaps it’s greatest strength is the core principal of asking questions, and not just any old inquiry but carefully selected and following empirical protocols. The results are then subject to peer review and eventually, if not countered as lacking evidence or repeatable proof, declared as scientific fact. Awesome hey? Sure, but before we hit the sidewalk in celebration we need to ask does science get it wrong? Totally! Another question which needs to be considered is, does science get manipulated and exploited for reasons of commerce and politics? You betcha! From the dangers of smoking, GMO and pharmaceuticals to water pollution and events like Fukushima scientists have been co-opted (some willingly) to push ‘facts’ that suit the interests of corporations and also government. The person in the lab-coat is thought to be authoritative, objective and lacking in bias, right? What more convincingly neutral messenger if you wanted to influence public opinion, after all they’re dedicated to fact and impartiality. You can trust them, can’t you?
Which brings us to China and its regime, long known for propaganda, censorship and ruthless totalitarian control, exerted over every facet of Chinese society, including academic institutions and media. Both areas are entirely politicized and subject to the ideological dictates of China’s communist party (CCP) under the control of President Xi Jinping. Nobody better represents this dismal state of affairs than Professor Huang Jiefu, a member of the CCP and Chinese government with disturbing links to the forcible removal of human organs from political prisoners inside China. Yet the same individual has the role of professional liar, touring the international circuit of surgeons’ conferences to deny and deceive, an enthusiastic propagandist! We’re not claiming that every academic declaration from China is to be dismissed, but those related to politically sensitive issues should be scrutinized with a particularly critical lens, especially when linked with Tibet!
On July 18 2018 we noted the publication of the following paper: ‘Traditional Tibetan Medicine Induced High Methylmercury Exposure Level and Environmental Mercury Burden in Tibet, China (sic)’ It was copyrighted to the American Chemical SocietySOURCE and authored in the majority by Chinese writers from Chinese government controlled academic institutions. It claimed the inclusion of mercury in Tibetan medicines, which the authors reportedly measured “in the municipal sewage in Tibet”. Not exactly a positive news story on Tibetan culture is it? What impression does it give? Does it cast Tibetans into a negative light? But they are questions of a political shade. Let’s get back to the science for now.
Now we imagine that the loyal academics of; China’s Ministry of Education Laboratory of Earth Surface Process (Beijing University), Institute of Tibetan Plateau Research, Chinese Academy of Sciences, (Beijing) and Chinese Academy of Sciences East China Normal University, (Shanghai) when formulating their central thesis statement followed standard scientific procedure and allowed for critical examination of any and all factors that could impact findings and tests?
We raise this important question because what’s been published gives an impression of a paper which had the objective of fitting the ‘facts’ to a predetermined conclusion. That of course would be bias. Surely those eager academics are dedicated to impartial research only, right? Well if so we would expect them to examine a range of factors that could result in significant levels of mercury in Tibetan sewage, and moreover to include results and measurements on other possible contributory sources in their paper. Unless of course what we have here is a politicized study which has propaganda aims? Dang there goes the political reflex again! Now where did we get too? Ah right! The science part.
An obvious start point would be for them to ask, is their geographic sample sufficiently diverse and of a range to be regarded as an accurate representation?
Did they consider other sources of mercury which could explain the supposed presence in those sewage samples taken?
What measures did they employ to identify what percentage of mercury in the sewage could be shown to be derived from traditional Tibetan medicine, as opposed to pollution incidents and or industrial wastage/use?
Were those who supplied the Tibetan medicine samples unknowing of the claimed mercury content, or complicit in adulterating such treatments?
In declaring Tibetan medicine to contain mercury did their paper examine the sources of constituent herbs, to establish if such plants were on contaminated soils or exposed to wind borne pollution?
Did the authors sufficiently examine the role of gold mining and its use of mercury which escapes into the surrounding environment, including the hydrosphere?
Were measurements taken in those limited sites where sewage was examined, to test water quality and presence of metals such as mercury?
Did they properly assess the possibility of mercury contamination from gold mining and the fact that mercury can contaminate the atmosphere and water at a very long distance?
It’s our view that such questions would be fundamental to any proper scientific examination of a thesis which was to conclude the production of Tibetan medicine as the causal factor of mercury within sewage. We invite the paper’s authors and its copyright holders American Chemical Society to furnish evidence that these possible other factors were included in the research, otherwise people may well speculate if the paper can considered a serious academic work.
While we await a response on that, back to our favorite subject, politics! Yay! So what to say about all this, well had Sherlock Holmes been investigating no doubt he would have remarked:
“It is a capital mistake to theorize before one has data. Insensibly one begins to twist facts to suit theories, instead of theories to suit facts.’ (Conan Doyle, A Scandal in Bohemia)
Are we witnessing such a manipulation with this paper? Does the Chinese regime control academic bodies and use them as a conduit for its disinformation? What’s known for sure is that the once pristine land of Tibet has, since China invaded in 1950, been ruthlessly exploited for its minerals, water, gas and forests. The environmental impact has been devastating, rivers and lakes polluted, the atmosphere and soils contaminated by mining for gold, other metal ores and asbestos. Taking all this into account it’s reasonable to consider that mercury contamination in occupied Tibet is significant and probably widespread, with frequency variation.
To blame this upon Tibetan medicine is a cynical duplicity and calculating falsehood, sure metals such as gold or silver may traditionally be included. Who knows mercury may have been, or some unscrupulous or ignorant supplier may add it. It’s not exactly an empirically derived conclusion. When compared to the magnitude and nature of China’s rampant mining of Tibetan lands, with its resultant pollution and industrial scale use of mercury, Tibetan medicine cannot justifiably be cited as the source of such contamination. It is founded upon principles that are in harmony with the land and respect the environment.
Back-in-the-day reports emerged of deforestation in eastern Tibet, a handful of publications associated such destruction with the lifestyle of Tibetans living in those areas. Such journalists, and environmentalists chose to ignore Chinese state supported lumber corporations who were transforming the once verdant forest of Tibet into a lunar landscape. They turned a blind-eye to the never ending convoys of trucks shipping timber back to China. They chose to cast a judgmental eye on Tibetans, now why would they do that? Perhaps, as in the case of this latest questionable ‘research paper’, the answer may be found in China’s Ministry of Disinformation!
As newspapers go the New York Times (NYT) is right up there. A major media voice, respected across the industry and a trusted news source. Unless that is its reportage concerns Tibet, for then its strident and independent journalism gives way to an uneasy accommodation. Critical and objective reporting is replaced by credulity. Readers are exposed to an editorial take on Tibet that has a worrying similarity to the official propaganda generated by the Chinese regime. Headlines and article content are saturated with terminology that may as well have been crafted by China’s ministry of disinformation. The purpose of which is to promote the deception that Tibet is an inalienable part of China or that Tibetans and their culture are thriving under the tender mercies of the Chinese authorities.
Image:print-screen from NYT online article 11/8/16
Take the November 8 2016 NYT piece from Mr Edward Wong, its bold headline; that element of a newspaper story most often consumed and remembered, suggesting that Tibetan Buddhism is flourishing. The article features a number of glossy images showing seemingly contented Tibetan monks and nuns, a gleaming Buddhist monastery and views of an expansive community. What more proof is needed that Tibetans are enjoying their Buddhist traditions, after all seeing-is-believing, right? Well so the propagandists of China’s regime would insist, and after all they have a long record of peddling such imagery. Smiling and prosperous Tibetans may be found all over Chinese websites and news agencies such as the regime’s official mouthpiece, Xinhua.
The reality of course, as well documented and reported by less gullible media agencies is that Tibetan Buddhism is being virtually exterminated, its monasteries placed under paramilitary control, regular indoctrination programs, charmingly concealed as ‘Patriotic Education’ are forced upon Buddhist Tibetans. Even the ancient tradition of reincarnate Buddhist teachers has been placed under the control and approval of the Chinese State! Meanwhile across Tibet as this post is being written Tibetan monks and nuns are suffering unimaginable misery in forced labor camps, or tortured in one of the innumerable prisons and torture centers. Such vicious oppression and the assault upon the Buddhist culture of Tibet is a matter of record and has attracted the concern of leading human rights organizations, the United Nations and governments.
Now Edward Wong (who presumably ironically, describes himself on Twitter as ‘comrade’) and the New York Times will be very aware of this harrowing truth, yet have chosen to promote a distortion that no doubt meets the approval of the Chinese regime. Taking a closer look at the wording used we can see the fingerprints of China’s propagandists all over this piece. See for example how Comrade Wong references the recent widely reported destruction of Larung Gar. Another Buddhist center, that was recently bulldozed into oblivion with monks and nuns forced weeping onto convoys of coaches, under the merciless eyes of machine-gun carrying paramilitary:
“The largest, Larung Gar, in a valley to the northeast, has more monks than nuns. Workers there are now demolishing individual homes, on the orders of Chinese officials. Some clergy members are being forced to leave.” (Emphasis Added)
What a masterclass in dilution that comment is, the grim reality of what actually happened and the extent of oppression and destruction diminished under the cover of supposedly neutral reportage. Indeed, anyone reading those words could be forgiven for concluding that regular demolition workers are pulling down a few houses and that a handful of Tibetans have been forced to relocate.The facts though are very different, in magnitude, suffering and oppression, as hinted at in the image below.
Further indications of just how slanted this article is appears in its headline, the deliberate and carefully applied use of the term ‘Tibetan Plateau’. A geographic, nonaligned description greatly favored by the Chinese authorities, as it avoids entirely any political association regarding Tibet, or the implied questions of its actual status.
What may we justly question is the objective of this particular NYT article? Whose interests are being most served? Is it a fair and balanced appraisal of the condition of Tibetan Buddhism under Chinese rule? Or are we witnessing a leading media publisher serving as a conduit for China’s propaganda distortions on the subject of Tibet?