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China's Latest PR Campaign...in Malawi.

April 9, 2009

namitembo.blog (Malawi)
April 7, 2009

Yesterday, The Daily Times of Malawi ran a
twelve-page advertising spread entitled "50 Years
of Democratic Reform in Tibet." To my eye, this
spread looked far more like editorial content - a
newsmagazine, perhaps. This illusion is aided by
the statement, which appears on all twelve pages,
reading "Supplement to The Daily Times." In fact,
this statement always appears inside the
advertising content itself - usually incorporated
into the headline artwork at the top of the page.
At no point is there any indication of who wrote,
or paid for, these twelve pages. It blends in so
well with the surrounding editorial content, I
myself was not aware that it was an advertisement
at all, until I had almost finished reading it
(in the header of each page, up in the corner, is
the word "ADVERTISING" in block letters - you'd
be forgiven for overlooking it).

I have scanned all twelve pages (each one in two
parts, 24 scans overall) and I'm currently
uploading them to my Flickr account here. For a
little preview, here are the opening two paragraphs:

Tibet, located in southwest China, has since the
ancient times been an inalienable part of China.
Before the Democratic Reform in 1959, Tibet had
long been a society of feudal serfdom featuring
the despotic temporal and religious
administration, a society which was darker and
more cruel than the European serfdom of the
Middle Ages. The People's Republic of China was
founded in 1949, and in 1951, Tibet won peaceful
liberation. The Central Government was prudent
with regard to the reform of old Tibet and
adopted a tolerant attitude toward the local
government of Tibet. With great patience and
sincerity, the Central Government did its best to
talk to the upper ruling class in Tibet and
waited for it to conduct reform of the old system
of its own accord. However, the reactionary
clique of the upper social strata of Tibet tried
to preserve for ever the feudal serfdom featuring
temporal and religious administration, and in
March 1959 launched an armed rebellion with the
aim of tearing Tibet away from the motherland.
The Central Government, with the support of the
people in Tibet, dissolved the local government
of Tibet which rode roughshod over the broad
masses of the Tibetans and resolutely suppressed
the armed rebellion. At this same time, the
Central Government, responding to the will of the
Tibetan people, implemented the Democratic Reform
and abolished the feudal serf system featuring
temporal and religious administration that had
lasted for several centuries. During the
Democratic Reform, one million serfs and slaves
in Tibet won emancipation, Tibet entered into a
new era of social development, and the Tibetan
people stood up and came into their own. In order
to mark this historic event, the People's
Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region decided
on January 19, 2009 that March 28, the day in
1959 the Central Government ordered the
disorganization of the local government of old
Tibet, be the "Serf Emancipation Day" of Tibet.

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Democratic
Reform in Tibet, this photo exhibition is held to
show its great cause and the changes that have
taken place to Tibet over the past 50 years; it
is also aimed at helping the international
community gain a better understanding of the
history and present situation of Tibet.

I have been told by the paper's Advertising
Manager that the Chinese Embassy in Malawi is
responsible for the ad. I managed to contact the
Managing Editor of the paper as well, and I asked
him why they printed an advertisement designed to
disguise itself as editorial content, and why,
instead of clarifying that it was indeed
advertising, the paper thought it necessary to
incorporate their own logo into the layout of the
advertising spread - thereby giving the
impression that this advertising content was, in
fact, approved by the Daily Times of being
"worthy" of its brand. The managing editor
insisted that the text reading "ADVERTISING" in
the corner of each page provided all the necessary clarification.

When asked whether anyone who wanted could write
up a news story - no matter its truth or
falsehood - and run it in his paper as
advertising, the Managing Editor told me no -
there are standards in place, and each
advertisement is carefully screened to see if it
is worthy of being printed in The Daily Times.
The Chinese Embassy's advertisement, he said, passed this test.

At this point, he began to make some accusations.
He accused me of trying to get him sacked from
his job, of hating the Chinese, and of being from
Tibet myself (though I speak with an American
accent) - or being a covert agent of Tibet.

"Were you in China at that time [referred to in
the ad]? How do you know what they were doing?"
he asked me, more than once. He also told me "the
Dalai Lama has had his own mishaps in the past,"
citing as his one example the Dalai Lama's recent
denial of a visa by the South African government.

I'll let you all be the judge of whether I am, in
fact, a Tibetan agent. In the meantime, if you
have something you'd like to say to the Editorial
Office of The Daily Times, they can be contacted at dailytimes@bnl.bppmw.com.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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