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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Not an iron fist, but a shoulder shrug

March 26, 2008

Canadian Mitch Moxley watches his colleagues at a Chinese newspaper roll over to the state spin on the Tibet crisis

The Globe and Mail
March 22, 2008

BEIJING -- Last April, I came to Beijing to take a job as an editor and
writer for China Daily, the country's only English-language national
newspaper. In an attempt to bolster pre-Olympics credibility and
content, the paper had embarked on a spree of hiring foreign
journalists, and I was
lucky enough to be one of them.

I arrived to find a newspaper, and a country, in flux. In the past year
Beijing has undergone a colossal makeover: Skyscrapers have been built;
world-class restaurants, bars and clubs have opened by the dozens; and
dazzling Olympic venues have taken shape.

China Daily, too, has changed for the better. But the paper, which
targets English-speaking Chinese and foreigners living in the country,
is also
state-owned and therefore tightly controlled. The riots in Tibet offer a
striking reminder of just how far removed China is from Western standards
of press freedom.

In recent days the government has censored Internet and television
reports about Tibet. YouTube is down, CNN and BBC broadcasts have been
blacked out and The Economist, which has an accredited reporter in
Tibet, has had its web dispatches from the region sporadically blocked
by what many media types here refer to as "the Chinese Net Nanny."

Meanwhile, state media have focused on how Tibetan rioters have looted
and damaged property owned by Chinese people and attacked or killed
Chinese civilians. Over the past week, China Daily stories have labelled
the rioters "vandals," "saboteurs" and "lawless persons," bent on
ethnic unity in the lead-up to the August Olympics.

"Some rioters wielded iron rods, wooden sticks and long knives, randomly
assaulting passersby, sparing neither women nor children," read a page-3
story in China Daily on Monday, provided by Xinhua, the state newswire.
"For many Lhasa residents ... March 14 stopped being just another Friday -
it was a day when the capital was left in chaos after an outburst of
beatings, vandalism, looting and burning, which officials say was
'masterminded by the Dalai clique.' "

Throughout the week, like the Chinese-language press, China Daily
stories made no mention of Tibetan concerns, or of reports from rights
groups that nearly 100 Tibetans had been killed in the violence.

The unrest in Tibet came after a week of interesting discussions I'd had
with both expatriate and Chinese staff at the paper, prompted by an article
in the April issue of Vanity Fair titled "Beijing's Olympic Makeover."

The writer, William Langewiesche, visits the China Daily office in north
Beijing and reports: "It surprised me that [Chinese reporters] showed no
sign of regret about their roles, or of envy about the possibilities
offered by freedom of the press. They seemed to believe genuinely in the
need for censorship, and executed most of it themselves before even
beginning to write."

This reminded me of conversations I've had with Chinese reporters over
the last year, which I think go a long way in illuminating the paper's
coverage of issues such as Tibet.

The greatest form of censorship at China Daily is probably the one
that's self-imposed. There's no one leaning over reporters' shoulders
telling them
what to write, and as far as I know stories don't go to some high-up
government official for approval or rejection.

As the Vanity Fair article points out, there are no "thought police" at
China Daily. Instead, reporters here simply know what they can and cannot
write - and they don't challenge those limitations. Change isn't coming
from the bottom and it certainly isn't coming from the top.

I've asked a few Chinese reporters what they think about censorship.
Their answers tend to meander, emphasize that change happens slowly, and
almost always end this way: "What can I do?"

Of course, in a country with so little press freedom, there is no
telling what might happen if they did challenge their roles. As one reporter
recently told me, "This isn't Canada."

In fact, many Chinese staff view what they do as something of a
public-relations exercise. They complain about biases against China in the
Western media and argue that censorship is necessary to promote a more
positive, balanced view of China's story.

I'm often asked by foreigners in Beijing what I think about working at a
state-owned newspaper, particularly at times like this. Members of the
foreign staff here often debate what our roles should be. Some say we
should promote a more fair and balanced form of journalism. Others think
that approach is futile. Most of us just come in, do the work and take
the job for what it is - a chance to live in China during an incredible

"There's nothing wrong with what we do," an Australian colleague who has
since left the paper told me last summer. "But you have to realize what
this is. We're not a newspaper. We're public relations."

The other day I was listening to a news conference with Premier Wen
Jiabao in Beijing, which was playing on a television by my desk. A crowd of
Chinese reporters and editors had gathered around the TV. At the news
conference, foreign reporters asked questions that focused on Tibet and
Premier Wen's answers were stock and predictable.

He reiterated China's position that the events in Tibet were caused by a
few people and were meant to derail the Olympic Games. But he assured
that the Games will still go on as planned, and they will indeed be
China's showcase.

"During the Olympics," he declared through his interpreter, "I have
confidence that the smiles of 1.3 billion people in front of the world will
be reciprocated by the smiles of people from all over world."

At China Daily, that's front-page material.

Canadian journalist Mitch Moxley's term at China Daily ends next month.

How China Daily covered Tibet

A few examples of China Daily's Tibet reporting this week, which gave no
credence to Tibetan grievances.

Oldest Tibetan celebrates 117th birthday

LHASA - The oldest person in Tibet celebrated her 117th birthday in
Lhasa on Sunday.

Amai Cering, born on March 16 in 1891, was treated to a celebration of
Tibetan entertainment and a birthday cake courtesy of the local government
and fellow villagers in Jiarong village, of Linzhou County, Lhasa, on

Her sight and hearing have deteriorated in recent years, but she smiled
and murmured amid the music at her birthday party.

She has borne two sons and two daughters, but only one daughter named
Yangjian is still alive. Her 36-year-old granddaughter Xiaobai is caring
for her mother and grandmother.

"It is a great privilege to look after her as she is precious to our
family," Xiaobai said.

Amai Cering lives on a government pension and donations from local
companies. She said she is happy with having meat every day. [...]

The average age in Tibet has risen from 35.5 in 1969 to 67, according to
official statistics.

Victims recount experience in riot in Lhasa

LHASA - If all had gone according to plan, Mei Yan, scheduled to give
birth in mid-March, would have been sleeping peacefully in her
comfortable home, greeting the arrival of a new life.

Her rosy dream was shattered by a fire that destroyed her house last
Friday in Southwest China's Tibet Plateau, the peak of the world. The
fire wasn't a naturally occurring one; it was ignited by mobs in Lhasa,
the capital city of Tibet.

Lying restlessly in an ordinary room at the Rescue Station of Lhasa, Mei
Yan remained fearful. "My child is to come into the world soon, but I have
no idea where we will go," said Mei Yan sadly, stroking her belly.

The homeless mother-to-be, who came from neighboring Gansu Province a
year ago with her husband to run a small restaurant near the mosque of
the old downtown area of the plateau city, fearfully recalled how she
saw her home burned. [...]

The lawbreakers, killing innocent people and disturbing social order,
aroused strong condemnation from people of all ethnic groups in Tibet.

"Religion advocates care and mercy, but the reckless rioters attacked
hospitals and child-entertainment centers," said Cering Doje, deputy
director of the religion research institute of the Tibetan Academy of
Social Sciences (TASS).

"They seemed to have lost basic humanity, and there was no mercy at all."

105 Lhasa rioters surrender to police

LHASA - Tibet regional government said 105 people have surrendered
themselves to police by 11 p.m. on Tuesday for involvement in the Lhasa
riot that killed 13 innocent civilians. [...]

Doje Cering, a 25-year-old villager, smashed a red sedan and a white van
with stones during the riot. He explained to Xinhua he was drunk at home
that day when he heard someone shouting "get out, or we will burn down
your house." Then he just blindly followed them.

Gyaincain, 53, said he came out when he heard people shouting "all
people out, or burnt by fire."

"I just followed them," he said. "I was very disturbed by what I did. My
family has persuaded me to give in to police," he said.

Excerpted from

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