Chinese get one news source on Tibet
The official news agency provides all coverage for print and TV, while censors closely monitor the Web.
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And on the few sites where the Tibetan leader's statement was readable, he did not appear to have touched many hearts with his plea to be believed when he says he seeks only autonomy for his homeland, not independence as the Chinese authorities insist.Skip to next paragraph
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"You are definitely a shameless politician, a gangster, a rascal," read one comment on powerapple.com, an entertainment website. "Nobody would believe this kind of nonsense," scoffed an Internaut named Yancong on cmule.com, a source of music and film downloads.
One doubter raised his voice, however, in the comments thread on cmule.com. "The majority of Chinese people have never really known Tibetans' lifestyle so they can only follow the central government's opinion," argued "Qdpan," who said he himself had lived near a Tibetan region. "People don't receive enough information so they are doomed to blindly follow."
Western reporting has leaked onto the Chinese Web through Chinese-language sites hosted abroad, e-mails from friends living in foreign countries, and translations of articles in US and European papers that have escaped censors' eyes.
Radically different in tone from the Chinese media, and occasionally inaccurate, these reports have sparked a wave of anti-Western resentment among Internet users here posting their opinions on sites such as anti-cnn.com; and the official media has offered detailed accounts of the phenomenon. "The government allows it to happen and makes clever use of it to manipulate it to fit its general policy," says the communications scholar. "They'll allow it to happen and see where it goes."
At the same time, she suggests, officials' show of support for the critics is self-defeating. "The unfair and unobjective reporting has been in the minority," she says. The government's "overreaction only shows their lack of confidence."
Against the tide of opinion flowing the government's way, a few voices have been raised. A group of liberal intellectuals issued a 12-point statement calling for an end to what they called "one-sided propaganda" and for negotiations with the Dalai Lama. Their declaration, widely reported abroad, got no further than a few internet sites inside China.
And some skeptics have expressed puzzlement over the government's policy.
"After reading domestic news these days, I still have the following questions," wrote A. Dai on his "Desert Sandstorm" blog.
"Why do Tibetans still go to protest in Lhasa" after Beijing has invested so much money in development projects? he wondered. "How could the Dalai Lama, regarded as worthless in China, win the Nobel Peace Prize?"
For now, such questions seem destined to go unanswered for Chinese news consumers. "On issues of high sensitivity, such as Taiwan or Tibet," says the scholar, "editors know they have to follow Xinhua guidelines."