Join our Mailing List

"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Lies, damned lies, and Chinese propaganda

April 5, 2012

By Dhundup Gyalpo

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

"Shocking, outrageous and totally unacceptable": That was how the Simon Wiesenthal Center, a leading Jewish human rights organization, characterized the Chinese media's attempt to draw an analogy between Nobel Peace Laureate Dalai Lama and the Nazi perpetrator of the Holocaust. The Center demanded that China Tibet Online and the Xinhua News Agency apologize for slandering the Dalai Lama and denigrating holocaust victims.

Titled "Seven questions to the 14th Dalai Lama", the commentary, posted on China Tibet Online and carried by the official Xinhua News Agency on March 24, accused the Dalai Lama of advocating policies that would result in the expulsion of Chinese from the Tibetan territories. "The remarks of the Dalai Lama remind us of the cruel Nazis during the Second World War," it stated, adding, "How similar it is to the Holocaust committed by Hitler on the Jews!"

Taking strong exception to this piece, Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center devoted to imparting the lessons of the Holocaust and promoting tolerance, said:

    "It is shocking, outrageous, and totally unacceptable that any Chinese official would permit the denigrating of the victims of the Nazi Holocaust as a tactic to slander a spiritual leader who has earned the world's respect over the span of decades, precisely because he pursues his agenda through peace and dialogue. Indeed, the Dalai Lama stands for the values that the Nazis sought to destroy. We urge China Tibet Online and the Xinhua News Agency to apologize for this double slander."[1]

An apology is certainly in order - but don't be holding your breath waiting for a miracle. Because, for the state-run media, the Chinese Communist Party can do no wrong. On the contrary, they will rather have you believe that there is no Tibet issue at all and that everything is just hunky-dory in Tibet.

As the crisis in Tibet shows no sign of dying down, Chinese propagandists have been running amok, spewing out all various outrageous accusations and speculations, mostly targeted against the Dalai Lama. However, it merely takes one gentle stroke of plain, simple truth for the entire facade of "potemkin stories" to come crashing down.

The People's Daily commentary begins from the outset with a fundamentally flawed question, based on skewed facts and faulty logic:

    "Q1: Why [does] the Dalai Lama deliberately incite Tibetans for self-immolation? The Dalai Lama called on Tibetans not to celebrate Losar [Tibetan New Year] so as to memori[ali]ze "the fallen heroes of Tibet" in Dharamsala India on Feb. 22. The Dalai Lama is deliberately encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate since he appealed to all Tibetans not to celebrate Losar in memor[y] of self-immolators. It's been thousands of years for Tibetans to celebrate Tibetan New Year, which is an important carrier of Tibetan culture, customs and emotions. Tibetans are able to obtain the great soul from Losar after a year of hard work."[2]

The accusation that "The Dalai Lama is deliberately encouraging Tibetans to self-immolate since he appealed to all Tibetans not to celebrate Losar" not only defies logic, it is a patent lie. The Dalai Lama never made such an appeal.

The truth is that it was Kalon Tripa Dr Lobsang Sangay who had appealed to the Tibetans to refrain from celebrating the Lunar New Year. [3] And he also said: "But do observe traditional and spiritual rituals by going to the monastery, making offerings and lighting butter lamps for all those who have sacrificed and suffered under the repressive policies of Chinese government."

The Kalon Tripa's appeal for not celebrating Losar does not by any stretch of imagination amount to "actively inciting self-immolation." On the contrary, his constant, emphatic appeals to the Tibetan people to respect the sanctity of life and refrain from engaging in any drastic measures convey quite the opposite of what the Chinese have been claiming so far. [4]

But why is China still harping on the theme that the Dalai Lama is fomenting unrest in Tibet? One of the most outspoken Chinese public intellectuals, Ran Yunfei, had this to say:

    "The communists really destroyed religion. They don't understand it at all. Look at Tibet. I told the guobao [State Security Agents] that, "you guys have gone too far. You don't allow them to hang pictures of the Dalai Lama. You don't have faith so you don't understand. So the Tibetans get very angry and depressed. And then you go into temples and instead hang pictures of Mao and Jiang (Zemin) or Hu (Jintao). You've gone overboard! This isn't right. Think about it. No wonder they set themselves on fire." [5]

Given the fact that the blanket media blackout in Tibet is even worse than Pyongyang, as Reporters without Borders noted in this report, [6] the Chinese state media can get away with any kind of stories on Tibet, especially those meant for the consumption of their domestic audience. And when things become dicey, the state media resorts to hitting the raw nationalistic nerves of popular sentiment, crying wolf with ominous portents like "the Dalai Lama wants to expel Chinese from Tibet."

This also explains why China is not only preventing independent foreign media from covering events inside Tibet, but is employing the full force of its propaganda machinery in waging a disinformation campaign, misrepresenting the current crisis as a shrewd machination of the Dalai Lama.

Despite the imposition of virtual martial law across all Tibetan regions, China has failed miserably in containing the deepening crisis in Tibet. Thus the Chinese state media continue to emphasize the point that the Dalai Lama is the key to the resolution of the Tibet issue. But if China wants the Dalai Lama's support in containing the situation inside Tibet, they should perhaps begin by toning down their vitriol against him and engage in a process of constructive dialogue.


1. China's Outrageous Comparison of the Dalai Lama to Nazis, Huffington Post, Mar 27, 2012.

2. Seven questions for the Dalai Lama, China Tibet Online, March 23, 2012.

3. Kalon Tripa’s Losar Statement, Central Tibetan Administration, Feb 20, 2012.

4. CTA Expresses Concern Over Self-Immolation Incidents, Central Tibetan Administration, Mar 27, 2012.

5. Learning How to Argue: An Interview with Ran Yunfei, The New York Review of Books, Mar 2,2012.

6. Authorities tighten grip, isolating Tibet even more from the outside world, Reporters Without Borders, Mar 1, 2012.

Speaking Freely is an Asia Times Online feature that allows guest writers to have their say. Please click here if you are interested in contributing.

Dhundup Gyalpo is a Tibetan journalist based in Dharamshala, India.

(Copyright 2012 Dhundup Gyalpo)

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank