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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

From the Other Side: Olympic Spirit and Media Objectivity Should Be Upheld

June 17, 2008

Yu Sun in China
The Women's International Perspective (Monterey, Ca, USA)
June 16, 2008

The earthquake that struck Sichuan recently has shown China's
capacity to mobilize resources, cope with emergency situations and
handle crisis. China conducted its own prompt media coverage and
provided unprecedented access to foreign media on the quake-hit area.
China has demonstrated its preparedness and ability to hold the 2008
Beijing Summer Olympic Games.

The So-Called Boycott Won't Affect the Olympic Games

As the symbol of the Olympic spirit, the Olympic flame represents
peace, friendship and global progress. And though the Olympic torch
relay traveled through many countries under the authorization of the
International Olympic Committee (IOC), sharing the passion and glory
of the Olympics with the entire world, it was disrupted by pro-Tibet
activists in some countries along the way and met with bias by some
western media.

The Olympic flame does not belong to China, but to the whole world
and carries a message of global peace. Disrupting the Olympic torch
relay is not only contrary to the Olympic spirit, but endangers the
personal safety of torchbearers and violates the rights of those who
welcomed its arrival.

A few countries' leaders have pondered not attending the opening
ceremony of the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing. I'm amazed to read
this kind of the news.

What is China going to lose from this possible boycott? After all,
tens of thousands of athletes from different countries will still
compete in Beijing, and that's what matters.

If a few countries want to boycott China, it's they who will lose
out. As former IOC Chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch commented,
countries calling for a boycott are only punishing their own
athletes. As for some politicians' absence from the opening ceremony,
their possible gesture is essentially meaningless and has little
influence. I believe these politicians will ultimately be remembered
in Olympic history for their record of mixing political matters with
sporting events.

Furthermore, this boycott is not based on an accurate understanding
of Tibet. Tibet is an integral part of China and as such, the issue
of Tibet is an internal affair.

Before 1951, Tibet had long been a society of feudal serfdom under
the political and religious rule of lamas. Since the founding of the
Tibet Autonomous region, Tibet has witnessed significant progress,
thanks to the policy of regional ethnic autonomy and the great
financial input and support from the central Chinese government.

Figures released by the Chinese statistic bureau of the region show
that in the past five years alone, the central government subsidized
Tibet with 95 billion RMB Yuan ($13.6 billion USD). Before 1951 in
Tibet, less than 2 percent of children went to school and the
illiteracy rate among young and middle-aged adults was 95 percent.
The current education policy allows urban students in Tibet to
receive free nine-year compulsory education, and the illiteracy rate
has subsequently dropped to 4.8 percent among young and middle-aged
adults; the overall rate is now below 30 percent. And their cultural
traditions and religious beliefs are well respected and preserved.
Since 1980, the Chinese central government has allocated more than
700 million Yuan ($100 million USD) for the preservation of 1,400
monasteries and cultural relics in Tibet. Tibet has about 1,700
religious sites for Tibetan Buddhism that accommodate approximately
46,000 monks and nuns.

Media Coverage Should be Objective and Based on True Facts

Though we can all agree that media should play an objective and
responsible role in reporting news events, some western media
distorted its coverage of the recent riots in Lhasa.

What have been portrayed in the media as "peaceful demonstrations" in
Lhasa have claimed thirteen innocent lives and caused property
damage. According to Qiangba Puncog, chairman of Tibet Autonomous
Regional Government, more than 300 locations, including residential
houses, and more than 200 shops, were set on fire by rioters.

A CNN website picture showed people running in front of a military
truck. The original picture uploaded by Chinese netizens, however,
actually shows protestors throwing stones at and attacking the truck
but that part was cropped out.

In a report on the Tibet riots, RTL news television in Germany used
TV footage showing policemen with captured protestors, however, the
policemen were actually Nepalese. The TV station later apologized for
its error.

Netizens in China criticized western media for intentionally
neglecting to cover the cruelty of the rioters, revealing the
hypocrisy of the "objectivity and fairness" they boasted as well as
the double standard in its so-called support of human rights.

There have even been mass protests and demonstrations against torch
relay disturbances and distorted western media coverage by Chinese
living overseas, but these news events are neglected by most western media.

One reason for some of the poor coverage of China by western media is
that they were not clear about the actual facts, and hadn't conducted
thorough enough investigations. Too many people outside China don't
know what really happened during the riots in Lhasa, and might have
been further misled by these distorted media reports.

China and western media need more communication to foster
understanding. Some western media should get to know more about
China, and respect the facts. According to media reports, to let
western media have access to the truth, CNN and some other western
media were invited by China to cover the torch relay in Tibet.

During the recent earthquake in Sichuan, more western media gave
objective and positive coverage. As time passes, I hope more
understanding between China and western media is established in the
future. This understanding is both important and meaningful. It will
foster understanding and friendship among the people of China and the
western world, and enhance the trust between Chinese government
leaders and their western counterparts.

About the Author: Yu Sun is the Chief Writer for China's
Environmental Protection magazine. Previously, Yu worked as reporter
and editor for more than 12 years for China Environment News. Yu was
awarded the United Nations Correspondents Association bronze prize
for her coverage of the Kyoto climate conference and was also invited
to speak at the International Investigative Journalism Conference
held in Holland in 2005. She was selected as Person of the Week by
Internews China after returning from the 2007 UN climate conference in Bali.

Yu was a 1998-1999 Nieman fellow at Harvard University, and 2003-2004
International Scholar at the Knight Center for Science Journalism at
Boston University. Yu received her Bachelor's degree in environmental
sciences from China's Jilin University in 1986 and a Master's degree
in natural resource management from Holland's International Institute
of Earth Sciences in 1997.
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