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China at War with Biggest Enemy, the Free Press

March 12, 2011

Tuesday, 08 March 2011 18:12 Carly Selby-James, The Tibet Post
International

Dharamshala: China is in the midst of a frustrated censorship race as
security and police forces muscle in and regime frontmen scurry to come
up with new regulations to counter the foreign press.

Tibet is one place where restrictions on foreign media were recently put
into overdrive, and the region is now virtually closed to foreign
visitors. In justifying the tighter controls, authorities in China have
cited 'safety concerns' such as overcrowding and cold weather, despite
the fact that Tibet is a 'minority' region of China with a low
population compared to major cities such as Shanghai and Beijing, which
experience a constant crush due to overpopulation, and the fact that
Beijing is an average of 10íC cooler than Lhasa, or up to 20íC with the
wind-chill.

Foreign media have been informed that they will now have to seek special
advance permission to film or operate in public areas or risk having
their visa revoked, in an apparently nervous attempt by the government
to roll back press freedoms awarded in the lead-up to the 2008 Beijing
Olympics. At the time, Beijing faced strong opposition in its bid for
the games due to concerns over human rights abuses and lack of media
freedom, only managing to secure support by making shallow promises of
reform which it clearly never intended to keep.

In the past two weeks, attempts by anonymous organisers to stage
nationwide protests have not yielded the anticipated results, as the
government's well-oiled censorship machine has launched a vicious
offensive against the free-flow of information within its borders,
blocking 'sensitive' websites and deleting 'politically inappropriate
content' almost instantly. Foreign news from the BBC and other sources
is frequently blacked out and 'technical disruptions' help filter
content for television and radio audiences.

The call to protest has been renewed and Chinese citizens are being
urged to gather in 41 cities across the country on Sunday to demand
their rights and greater freedoms, as the government announces an ever
more invasive strategy which includes tracking all residents through
their mobile phones and increasing surveillance of the population.

The credibility of the threat the protesters pose however is hindered by
the isolation of individuals and prevention of communication to bring
people together. The recent calls for demonstration, which urged people
to 'stroll by' protest sites, were quashed by an unprecedented show of
force in the major cities of Shanghai and Beijing, with several
bystanders arrested for unknown reasons and news crews from the BBC and
CNN detained at local police stations for attempting to photograph the
stifling security presence. One reporter suffered a broken rib, and
another sustained a hand injury after receiving kicks and punches to the
head and body.

Calls on the internet for the public 'Jasmine Revolution' have sparked a
violent crackdown by government forces, fearful of a Middle-east
inspired uprising that would topple their one-party dictatorship in the
name of democracy. The communist regime's information war on its own
people, who remain virtually blindfolded and in a dark oblivion to the
outside world, is now showing signs of falling apart as the spread of
news through the internet threatens the credibility of government
propaganda.

According to the 2008 regulations governing foreign media ╨ which
formalised the temporary freedoms granted to foreign reporters during
the Beijing Olympics ╨ foreign correspondents are allowed to interview
any consenting individual without official permission. The regulations
do not apply in Tibet, where Chinese authorities continue to ban
independent reporting. ??The new restrictions put places like Beijing's
People's Square and Wangfujing street on par with Tibet as out-of-bounds
areas where foreign reporters need special permission to work, and come
after journalists were attacked and harassed in the same areas over the
weekend.

Propaganda in China is led by the government agency 'Xinhua', which sets
the pace for all other news outlets and journalists to follow. Those who
do not are quickly silenced and face termination and even imprisonment.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
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