Talk about Newsnight

Paul Mason's Idle Scrawl

Pro-China protests sweep the web (let's talk?)

  • Paul Mason
  • 21 Apr 08, 09:34 AM

UPDATE: 1516 GMT Protesters in nine cities have blockaded Carrefour stores in protest at France's diplomatic stance on Tibet. See it here on Youtube....

In the past seven days Chinese students have held a protest outside BBC Manchester condemning the corporation's "biased" reporting of Tibet, the Olympic flame etc; over 3m young Chinese have joined an online protest by adding "Love China" tags to their MSN accounts, and, according to this report, the Chinese authorities are now so worried about the nationalist tone of pro-regime demos and websites that they have started to censor them. It's given me an idea...

As somebody whose reports may have been judged negative (the real ire is currently reserved for CNN whose commentator reportedly described China's leaders as "thugs and goons") I have a couple of points to make.

First, western journalists should listen to these protests: you don't have to agree with them but if you listen to them you will learn more about what is driving them. A commonly heard objection on the Chinese bulletin boards goes like this: we've been on a marketisation path for 30 years, you've had it for 200 years a) give us time b) please remember that when you claimed the right to rule parts of our country you never offered democracy. There is actually a debate going on within the Chinese ruling elite, and it is reflected within the intelligentsia, over how fast and what form democratic reform should take. Chinese people often believe western journalists turn up with no knowledge whatsoever of anything mentioned in this paragraph, and they are not looking forward to thousands of hacks whose main area of expertise is rowing and crown green bowling turning up to lecture them about democracy; or indeed invading and occupying somebody else's country.

Second: more engagement is necessary. I recently spoke to an audience mainly composed of Chinese students at Nottingham University, on the subject of my book, part of which deals with the rise - and re-rise - of the Chinese labour movement. There were those who virulently opposed me, those sympathetic to my account - in other words the debate within China was played out in public on an English campus: I learned something, they learned something.

With this in mind I make the following suggestion. I will gladly appear on Chinese state TV (it will have to be CCTV's English channel, but its a start) to discuss and defend the BBC's coverage of Tibet and the Olympic protests - and will take a self-critical look at our reports. But in return CCTV has to show one of my recent reports on China, chosen by me, with Chinese subtitles. Is it a deal?


  • Comment number 1.

    Mushtaq Khan Mooliani

    I think your suggestion cannot be materialized at any rate because tibet is Chinese internal matter and why are you enflaming it to present such kind of provocative reports and suggestions.You may debate this issue through blogs and not on tv channels.

    Mushtaq Khan Mooliani

  • Comment number 2.

    All this is very safe academic posturing and would be fairly acceptable, if it were not for the fact that Communist China is operating a form of cultural genocide in Tibet, in which human rights abuses, including forced sterilisations of Tibetan women, are endemic, whilst political, civil and religius rights are brualy oppressed. Given the nature and scale of suppresson inside Tibet it is difficut to maintain any credible position, as some sort of detached intellectual observer. The suffering of the Tibetan people surely demnds an ethical and moral decision of any right thinking and compasionate individual to oppose the abuse and support freedom, justice and human rights for Tibet.

    As to the presence of Chinese students protesting against the BBC in Manchester, a couple of thoughts spring to mind. Are they under the control of the Chinese authorities, in a staged effort to deflect and distort the debate? One wonders too if these Chinese protesters have watched the BBC's controversial series, 'A Year in Tibet', an obseqious film and a shameful betrayal of the political and cultural realities of life inside Tibet, that presented a distorted, selective and pro-China view.

    More information at:

  • Comment number 3.

    was that editorship or censorship?

  • Comment number 4.

    Better still, why not get Newsnight to have an open forum on Tibet inviting you, Head of BBC, UK ambassador Fu Ying, Chinese students and Tibetan reps - the subject for discussion :who is demonising who and what should be the role of the BBC in the China Tibet/Human rights debate?

  • Comment number 5.

    Good idea #4. I will suggest it to the editor. In the meantime there is also the BBC's regular feedback programme, Newswatch.

    The problem is, #1, that TV channels have a bigger audience than blogs, and they are the key form of communication in a democratic society. Since the Chinese internet is censored, but CCTV goes out "as live" there is more chance of this debate informing and educating the Chinese public than if it remains on the blogs.

  • Comment number 6.

    If the Chinese authorities stopped blocking the Mandarin BBC News website, millions of Chinese could post their corrections and make the BBC better.

  • Comment number 7.

    _Marko apparently they have stopped blocking it, though sporadically and with no explanation.

  • Comment number 8.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 9.


    Paul, perhaps only students from Da Lu, (mainland) are protesting BBC in Manchester, but if you look at the protesters outside CNN in Hollywood, USA, you will see Chinese persons of all ages, and all countires, pan-asia, or should I better say, Pan-China.

    While I admire your offering this blog, and raising this question, I view your proffered deal as a clever way to introduce more propaganda. Now don't get offended, there is nothing wrong with propaganda per se, especially when we know where it's coming from. The problem is, most of us now have genuine concerns about that.

    I think it would behoove you to communicate without strings attached, without deal making, especially when the deal includes inserting your personally chosen "PR" (public relations). Why not offer, as part of a genuine apology, the opportunity to CCTV to run a program of THEIR choice on your station in UK?

    Moreover, how nice it is that after a week (only a week or only noticed it a week ago) of Chinese pro-China demonstrations you have thought that maybe, just maybe, some might find the BBC news coverage on this issue biased! As a professional myself, I wonder if today's journalists have lost their moral compas?

    Running stories without placing them in context, based on imposed assumptions, and reppeting false facts as though they were known and accepted truths, is not only biased, but in any other field, unlawful.

    For myself, you and other "western" influenced media have exercised your version of freedom of the press without taking any responsibility whatsoever!

    What about the people's right to know? Afterall, is this not the basis for the free press?

    take care
    Kathy and Shannon

  • Comment number 10.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 11.


    The entire western world has the following mis-conceptions about China

    Chinese people can only be happy by adopting western style of democracy. False.

    Chinese people desire to have right to vote to decide their own government. False.

    Chinese government has not done a single useful to the country it governs. False.

    Westerners enjoy unlimited freedom. But Chinese think you earn your freedom. Freedom comes at a price tag.

    This is why when westerners lecturing Chinese people about Freedom. The Chinese has not got a clue what they mean.

    Nowadays, ordinary Chinese can choose their work, can choose the way they live their life, can go aboard, can travel freely, can get passport, can own proprety, can publish books, can go to TV shows.

    Comparing with life 30 years ago, ordinary Chinese enjoy unprecedent freedom. Most importantly, China's political system is evolving all the time at slow pace.

    Finally, my point is that a country where you can travel by trains running every hour for 350km in 2 hours , is not a poorly managed country. China just started building a railway link between Beijing and Shanghai. The train will run 350km/hr and takes 5 hours to cover a distance of 1200km running every 5 mins. Breath taking.

  • Comment number 12.

    Its quite difficult for China to start any kind of dialogs with Dali, his Tibetan followers or the thousands of NGOs backing him, if they still keep on promoting lies such as 1950 invasion and "cultural genocide", both of which are neither based on any historical or present day evidence. Unfortunately as long as they keep releasing those propaganda to the public, there will always be a roadblock to any rational discussion.

    The first step toward ending the Tibet issue is to get Dali lama to do what he has promised to do: disband his "goverment in exile", of which its very existence was based on the 1959 CIA funded military uprising and contradict everything about his claim to "just autonomy". Second he must remove his demand to evicting all non-Tibetans from Tibet, which is essentially a "dialog" with the pre-condition of Beijing agreeing to ethnic cleansing (point 2 in his 5-point-proposal). Thirdly maybe he should stop getting funds from the thousands of US NGOs, including RSF, which mostly are just using Tibet as a tool.

    Like it or not, quite a lot of those NGOs backing Dali Lama are only interested in using his as a pawn to discredit China, and they haven't been trying to keep it a secret either. You have the Sudan folks jumping onto Tibet wagon when it stole the spotlight, you have those Tibet folks whose organization will cease to exist after the Olympics, it doesn't take a genius to see their goal was never Sudan or Tibet, their goal was China.

    A change in perception of the world need to take place in those few western journalists that still has some journalism integrity, it is to remember the fact that they are not the ones who have default right to get involved in politics nor to have the right to enter any country they want. Even more importantly, they have to remember that the lack of information does not mean the right to fabricate lies.

    While China censors the bad news, Western media fabricate false news, in China the media is controlled by the state, in the West the media is controlled by the NGOs, of which sometimes are funded by the goverment. The end effect is, people in China may not know whats going on, but people int eh west "knows" thing that never happened. I have access to both, and I have to say the latter, and people who believes in them are a lot more scary.

  • Comment number 13.

    to post 5, or any one holds the same idea. what makes them think they are good enough to 'educate' a country?! Some one may have a fair point in particular object, which i don't deny. But saying that is humiliating. Please keep in mind that the people whom you are talking about are not less intelligent/educated as you.

  • Comment number 14.

    Dear Paul,

    how about letting us long term China expats in on the debate. I promise you that many of us can provide the most unbiased feedback you will find inside or outside of China.

    Tibetan independence has become symbolic of all freedom fights in the world now. That is understandable, but is it fair? Has anyone questioned the convenience of reincarnation as a means of avoiding democrating elections before demanding the Dalai Lama back as a head of state AND religious leader? Do most UK or Western people even know what kind of society Tibet was before the 1950's?

    Not to excuse any imperialist aggression, including Chinese, but isn't it time the West educated itself on world history? The Chinese sadly don't have unfiltered access to historic records. What's our excuse?

  • Comment number 15.

    First of all, #1, I recommend that you read "The Dragon in the Land of Snows: A History of Modern Tibet Since 1947" regarding the sovereignty issue of Tibet and whether this is an internal matter of China or an international issue for the UN. I disagree with your premise.

    With regard to the blogger's position about the protests: Engagement with China on China's terms has not lead to improved human rights, meaningful democratic reforms or greater openness by China (read CCP). Just as China lulled pre-1950 Tibet into comfort regarding its intent, modern China is lulling the peoples of the remaining free world with its propaganda. Engagement since Nixon has not changed the path of the Chinese Communist Party.

  • Comment number 16.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 17.

    Evidently China is still very new and weak in media coverage and influence. It can hardly sustain the combined attacks from the U.S., and EU. When EU and the U.S. decide to contain China, media is a vital force as they always do in similiar situation. Human rights acusation, religion, birth control, ethnical conflicts are the most used reason to paint China ugly, disregard the truth or false. Where did you hear about religious repression in Tibet? Of course from BBC or Reuters? Are those facts or accusations? Did you actually ask yourself these questions?

    Personally I have lived in Tibet, China, for a few years and I now live in the U.S. I see the regular Chinese treating tibetans far better than the White Americans treating the minorities. However, it is the western media that is constantly, continuosly and intentionally reporting negative rumors and accusation. Has the western media ever reported China events objectively? No.

  • Comment number 18.

    #4 has a great idea. Will BBC accept the challenge ?

  • Comment number 19.

    First #2, my "non-commital" or objective stance is I assure you not a result of being an intellectual. It is mandated by the BBC's Royal Charter which state my reports have to be fair, impartial and unbiased. I invite you to have a look at them on this website and give me feedback.

    The reason this form of journalism has social utility (I admit there are other kinds, ranging from Fox News to Indymedia that may have more immediate impact) is this: since I work under rules of strict rigorous impartiality, if I manage to gain access to Tibet, a Chinese sweat-shop, a polluting battery plant or any other controversial subject, then the Chinese government is obliged to give weight to the report.

    The point about the student protesters in the diaspora is that they are *not* under the control of the authorities, indeed they are a little bit out of control, as the Carrefour incidents and desecration of the French tricolor show. However I have run into a lot of stereotypes in the media which suggest precislely this. I would love to try and get a range of UK based Chinese students into a live debate.

    #9, who accuses me of producing anti-Chinese propaganda. In actual fact I think it would be a good thing to show a CHinese TV programme on UK TV and discuss it; I will even suggest that to the bosses. However I will say here that the mainland Chinese population is seriously disadvantaged in deciding what is propaganda, what facts are correct and what fabricated etc, because freedom of speech is curtailed, as is the press. I will repeat again a question I asked previously in this blog: given Chen Liangyu, who was part of the Jiang Zemin group in Shanghai, has just been sentenced to 18 years in prison for corruption, where is the interview with Jiang which asks the question: "what did you know?" A seriously free press would be allowed to ask that question, and until the Chinese press does I will not be lectured by its sympathisers about propaganda.

    Apologies to those whose comments are taking a little time to moderate - it's not me who does it!

  • Comment number 20.

    Mr. Mason,
    In response to your comment #5, I think that a live debate on BBC can inform and educate the British public as well.

  • Comment number 21.

    Mr Mason, I am a chinese science student who have been staying in the UK for almost 6 years now.
    I fully understand and admit that China has a lot aspects which need to be improved in the future. It has all the problems of what we are expected to see from a typical developing Country. Especially China has 1.5 Billion population. You can always find a samll portion of people who dont like our government. But I dont think there is such a party could satisfy 1.5 billion people in a developing Country with 56 different ethnics. Chinese government are trying to do the best as they can. And you can see how much progress China has made in the last 20 years.

    We are always willing to hear different voices, However, if BBC could treat China's problems in a proper way like BBC treat other Countries, such as U.S., Japan, Singapore, France, Germany and so on. Then I think all chinese would be very happy to accept the suggestions and criticisms.

    I have attended three protests so far, April 2nd (60people) in manchester, April 6th (5000people) in London and April 19th (2000people) in manchester. The motif was all about anti-media distortion, anti-violence and support Beijing Olympics.

    Have you found out what was driving us? If you insist that I or we were supported by chinese authorities, then I guess you are just an another Jack Cafferty

  • Comment number 22.

    An important issue related to the recent events around the Olympic torch and riots in Tibet is the journalism.
    The youth in China got angry very much like in the West, they, as human being, concern the human rights.
    When Chinese citizen's burned to death, killed in open streets in Lhasa, they surely concerned. When the West media decided to cheer the murders and condemned the victims, they got angry.
    We condemn the Chinese government for the human right abuse in China,
    its environment policy and unregulated working condition for millions of workers and many other things which are well
    To make up, or create a situation, and then blame and condemn the Chinese government for something they did not do or have not yet done does not help the just course, in fact, make things worse.

    We people live in the west assume that if there is a riot in Tibet, it must be a terrible act by the Chinese government.
    To show to the world, west media just need to show some pictures. CNN found one in Youtube. A militarily looking
    truck in a corner of the picture with riots in most of other part of the photo. Cut 60\% of the picture. One saw a military truck driving which at least suggested a heavy presence of Chinese military. Several European news services wanted
    to show a picture of Chinese police beating protesters. They could not find one, so instead they showed a photo
    of Nepalese police beating Tibetan protesters and they said this was what happened in Lhasa. Who would care the authenticity of the photo? or who would even notice anyway?

    We also assume, or make ourselves to believe, that Chinese have no access to the west media. It turns out that while Chinese government blocks many websites, over two hundred millions netizens in China do have access to the west media, one way or another. A few among these two hundred millions were suspicious about the uniforms these police were. A couple of hundred among two hundred millions of them figured out these were Nepalese police and the origin of the picture (from CNN which showed it happened in Nepal). It was true that Youtube were blocked by Chinese government from time to time, but it did not prevent millions of Chinese netizens from using Youtube.
    So they located the origin of the infamous photo used by CNN and showed not only the rest of the picture but the rest of the tape which included ugly scene of the violent riot. These news spread in the internet inside and outside China.
    CNN were forced to defend itself by releasing the whole photo and claimed that the only reason that the whole picture did not show is that the photo was too wide. It hardly convinced these angry netizens. It argued why CNN did not cover the truck and showed the other part of picture first? That would not be politically correct, would it? Or, why CNN did not
    show the entire tape or part of tape which showed the killing of innocent people? Some of European news services on the other hand continued to used the Nepali pictures and either ignoring the complains or claimed that the complains were just a bunch of brainwashed Chinese who blindly support their evil government.

    There are plenty evidence and well-documented cases showing Chinese government's human rights abuses.
    But in this case, the West reacted on a misinformed event (sounds familiar ?).
    China is changing very quickly.
    Pretending that Chinese are "basically the same bunch of goons and thugs they've been for the last 50 years"
    (quote from Jack Cafferty of CNN) would not help anybody. The west media could use their courage to condemn some of these lama monks who burned children alive and killed by-standers in the open streets in Lhasa and show the sympathy to the victims. In that
    way, it would have support from over billion Chinese to oppose their government's abuse of human rights.

  • Comment number 23.

    I am pleased to see some other posts here from people who, like me, have spent time in Tibet, and to see that they, like myself, are actually rather impressed with the way the Chinese have governed it, the material prosperity they have brought, and the freedom of religion that I observed on my month-long visit in 2006. Not only did the Chinese permit the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, they even ran Chinese-language tours of the temples in which the principles of the religion were explained in a lively and sympathetic manner (I know this because I am a Tibetan Buddhist, speak Chinese, and listened in.) Unfortunately the tourist industry was dependent on the Tibetan reputation as a 'peaceable' people, and thus has now been more or less permanently destroyed.

    I am sorry to say it, but Yes, I do think the BBC's coverage of these issues has been biased. I speak Chinese and have seen the Chinese coverage, which includes many shocking scenes such as monks kicking in the doors to Chinese shops, throwing the goods out on the street and burning them, an interview with a young girl whose entire family was burned to death by a Tibetan mob, and an elderly Chinese motorcyclist being pulled to the ground and being stoned to death. As far as I know the BBC has not shown any of this footage: however, the Chinese have seen it, and so the BBCs description of these events as 'peaceable protests' understandably makes them very angry.

    I think if there were to be an exchange of TV programs, the Chinese would show some of this footage and then say, 'Are these rioters, looters, and murderers really the kind of people whom you believe should be given autonomy?' The program would have to be shown after 10 pm because a lot of the footage is very shocking.

    I'm not sure what the BBC's program to be shown in China would say, though. Given the level of unprovoked racist violence directed against the Han and Muslim citizens of Tibet, I really don't see how you make any case that it is in China's, or anyone's, interest that China relax its control of Tibet in any way.

  • Comment number 24.

    Defend the BBC's coverage of Tibet with condition to show one of you recent reports on China?
    How about to show your previous reports first on MDW of Iraq! I saw the coverage from both CNN and BBC on the MDW investigation before your troop invaded Iraq.
    BBC's coverage of Tibet was simply lie on purpose.

  • Comment number 25.

    Hi, Paul,
    Thank you very much for your message. Finally, someone understands us. The problem were western medias manipulated the public to create racial hatred.
    I think keeping an open mind is all we need.
    Thanks again for your comment, it means a lot to us.

  • Comment number 26.

    How about let us make a deal that I will show up in BBC and CNN to defend Chinese policies on Tibet and BBC and CNN will offer Western people including you a chance to watch "Documentary: The Dalai Lama".

    Do we have the deal? Stop media distortion of truth and stop fooling Western people by carefully selecting biased reports to tell one-side (your side) of the stories only and always.

    Th problem is that Western people have no chance to expose to the outside media and believe everything from their own media; on the contrary, thanks to the "freedom and democracy" propaganda of the west, Chinese people expose to both Western media and their own media and do not believe neither completely. Who do you believe, the Western people or Chinese may have more objective view of the world, such as this Tibet issue? How much do you know about Tibet, your White pro-Tibet supporters? What is your dirty ego behind your pro-Tibet mind?

  • Comment number 27.

    #24. It may have escaped your attention but Newsnight was one of the programmes which broke the story that a security insider doubted the existence of WMDs and had raised this with the government.

    Before the war I would say we reported and interrogated the views of the weapons inspectors and various UN diplomats; we also gave voice to critical anti-war voices as well as pro-war voices.

    I personally made the first report on the BBC which asked the question whether oil was a motive for the US intervention (also, incidentally for China and Russia's stance on the security council.

    I think the whole British media could have done better in the run up to the war: its something we have debated, reviewed and analysed - maybe even learned lessons from.

    When I see a voice on CCTV openly advocating independence for Taiwan or Tibet, freedom for Hu Jia, amnesty for the victims of the Tiananmen square massacre - indeed even the term "massacre" - the Chinese media will have reached the same level of openness as the western media, flawed as it is.

    On your accusation that we lied on purpose over Tibet, any investigation into that would have to start with an example of a "lie". I would be happy to see the evidence and to present it to my bosses.

  • Comment number 28.

    Ok, you want an example of a 'lie'. I just looked at one day of your coverage (17 March). Here are some headings:

    'Tibet Anti-China Protests Spread'
    'In quotes: Reactions to Tibet Protests'
    'Tibetan Protester Deadline Passes'

    Have looting, burning, and stoning people to death now become acceptable forms of political dissent? If not, referring to these activities as 'Protests' and to those engaging in them as 'Protesters' is a lie comparable to referring to e.g. the IRA in its most active period as 'protesters'. The fact that someone may or may not have a political agenda does not turn illegal and immoral activities into 'Protest'.

    And how about this quote from 'UN calls for Restraint in Tibet' on the same day:

    'Up to 80 protesters are reported to have died in the Chinese crackdown.'

    That's a lie too. It implies that all the deaths were due to the actions of the Chinese. A correct statement at the time would have been 'Around 20 innocent civilians were killed by Tibetan mobs. The number of Tibetan casualties is at this point unknown.' And there of course is that word 'protesters' again.

    There are actually plenty more examples if you look. In fact, the more I look, the more I feel the BBC should be thoroughly ashamed of itself.

  • Comment number 29.

    Paul: Thanks for your reply to my post.
    Well, you “could have done better…-maybe even learned lessons from” – After over 1 million life of innocent civilian, women and children killed!
    From the beginning to the end, your (FOX News, CNN, BBC) coverage of MDW in Iraq had been widely viewed by millions of people as part of a political propaganda, to manipulate the public opinion and to justify the invasion. Millions of people in this world know clearly the motive of that war long before you “made the first report on the BBC which asked the question whether oil was a motive for the intervention”. The media did functioned and contributed to the mission’s completion in terms of sending your troop there with a “justified” reason.
    And now you asked to go to Tibet for another investigation?
    Do you (BBC and CNN) have any credit to investigate Tibet riot? -No.
    Should you been allowed to gain access to Tibet now for a free coverage? – I doubt it and I fully understand why you are not trusted by Chinese– you (or maybe your boss and majority of western media) have deliberately blocked lots of photos, videos taken by foreign tourists on site showing the truth of 3.14 Lhasa riot and selected lots of photos from Nepal or India to support your “brutal Chinese crackdown” propaganda in your reports.
    Even given you the requested access, do you think Chinese people are obliged to give weight to your report? - Not at all. Why? – Read your BBC’s Royal Charter twice and answer for yourself.
    Before your trip to Tibet or CCTV debate in China, don’t forget to bring a list of “150 killed” from Tibetan Government in Exile – their names, where, when and how. Any clue will help, at least you know where to go and who you should talk to. Tibetan Government in Exile also claimed that over one million Tibetan killed since 1950’s – some mathematics on population growth rate may also help your investigation
    Good Luck

  • Comment number 30.

    Another example of what I would consider highly unethical journalism, if not a 'lie' as such, is that you were still putting statements by the Chinese government regarding the events in Lhasa in scare quotes, after not only video shown on Chinese cable TV, but also the eyewitness accounts of James Miles of the Economist and of various foreign tourists, in Lhasa, made it clear that those accounts were accurate in virtually every particular.

    Since you didn't mention this supporting evidence, and despite your terrible and obscene errors on Iraq there are still a few people who believe the BBC, the very unfortunate result is that many, many people are forming opinions on this whole issue based on assumption that what the Chinese government said is unsupported by fact and therefore must be a tissue of lies. You really have a lot to answer for, as of course you also do on Iraq.

  • Comment number 31.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 32.

    So - I have pointed out some examples of lies and biased coverage.

    I haven't seen any response from Paul Mason.

    Are we going to see either some defense of the coverage described above, or a public apology to the people of China, the UK, and the world?

  • Comment number 33.

    I should also add that the BBC's coverage of these issues is not by any means the worst among major news organizations - which is not to say that hasn't been appalling. The reason why you have been picketed is that people expect more of the BBC. Some still remember the days when you could count on the BBC to dig for the truth without fear or favor, rather than looking over one shoulder at their ratings and over the other at their paymasters in the British Government.

    The BBC abandoned its former role as a fearless and objective reporter of the truth at the time of the Gilligan Affair. However, should you wish to reclaim it (unlikely, but you never know), you could not only correct the above-mentioned errors in your own reporting, but also the following lies that have appeared in other major media outlets and gone uncorrected by them:

    1. The media were looking for footage of police beating up 'protesters' (rather than rioters of course) in Lhasa. They couldn't find any (I don't believe any exists, and James Miles reports no such incidents), so instead they ran video of Nepalese police beating up demonstrators in Khatmandu and falsely claimed these were Chinese police in Lhasa.

    2. The claim was made by the news media, and repeated by the Dalai Lama, that the riots were instigated by Chinese soldiers dressed as monks, on the basis of a photo showing Chinese soldiers preparing to change into monastic uniforms. Chinese bloggers investigated the photo and found that it was actually from a movie set in 2000 in which the army were doing the makers a favor by appearing as extras. They were able to prove this since the soldiers' uniforms had changed design since 2000, the livery of the taxicabs in the shot has also changed, and the weather in the photo is summery, rather than the cold and overcast weather in Lhasa at the time of the riots.

    By the way, one media organization that did point out this error was actually criticized for it by the Dalai Lama for harming the cause of the Tibetan people!

    I'm not sure if you have run those claims, but I'm pretty sure I haven't seen any refutation of them in your coverage, which would be required by your former pre-2003 policy of being a resource to which anyone in the world could go for reliable information on current affairs.

  • Comment number 34.

    MartinMellish, you have found some examples of the BBC using neutral language. A rioter is still a protester (a violent one) and peaceful protester is still a protester. This is very similar to referring to the IRA as paramilitaries or to Hamas as militants (in the case of Hamas they often add that may international organisations think they are terrorists). This kind of thing also winds up the Israelis and the Americans.

    As for stating saying that 80 people have reportedly died in a crackdown is lie, you are totally wrong. It was reported that 80 people had died in a crackdown, readers to the article find out that this report came from the Tibetan "government-in-exile", they can make up their own minds as to the truth of it. The Chinese government's version of events is also stated in the article.

    As a reader of the BBC website and a Newsnight viewer I have seen the footage of the violence in Lhasa (on Newsnight, commented on by some lazy Lancastrian bloke). I have also heard reports of other peaceful protests being broken up by police, I know these come from one side of the arguement just I know that the reports from Chinese TV come from another side of the story. I accept that the incident in Lhasa was a race riot because there were independent witnesses there. I do not however know what happened at other demonsrations or what is happening now in the "education process" because the Chinese government does not allow free access to the Western media, the Hong Kong media or the UN to the TAR. This automatically makes me wonder if they have something to hide.

    I have retained an open mind as to the possibilty that the BBC's coverage is biased, however I have yet to see anything beyond an attempt to tell both sides of the story and hence deviate from Beijing's line on the matter.

  • Comment number 35.

    So you would have referred to the L.A. and Detroit riots as 'Protests'? I haven't done the research, but I'm pretty sure you referred to them as riots like everyone else. Correct me if I'm wrong.

    As for your statement above that "readers to the article find out that this report came from the Tibetan "government-in-exile", they can make up their own minds as to the truth of it." : it is simply false. Here is the full beginning of the article (delimited by lines):



    UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon has called on both Chinese forces and demonstrators in Tibet to show restraint after days of rioting.

    Mr Ban urged "a peaceful resolution", but made it clear there were no plans for UN intervention.

    Up to 80 protesters are reported to have died in the Chinese crackdown.

    A Chinese deadline for protesters [sic] to surrender has passed...

    Neither here not anywhere else in the article is this figure sourced to the 'government in exile' - at least in the on-line version of the article that I am reading. Read the full article yourself and see.

    You don't address the issue of placing statements from the Chinese Government in scare quotes while omitting the very tangible evidence of their accuracy. You also don't address the issue of the BBC's obligation to correct media lies that it did not source but does know to be false.

    You compare the Chinese video (objective evidence) with 'reports' of peaceful protests being broken up by police (no source or confirmation cited). I'm not saying the latter didn't happen, but can you see that the evidentiary weight of these two is very different?

    I have to say that the fact that the Chinese government doesn't let you into the TAR is probably more a reflection of your biased coverage of these issues (of which they understandably don't want to see any more), than a sign they have anything to hide.

    I'm done and will not be contributing further to this thread. By the way, I have no axe to grind here. I was born in the UK, live in America, and am a Tibetan Buddhist who has also spent time in China. I speak English, Chinese, and Tibetan and have spent extensive time in Lhasa. You have missed a chance to re-establish your reputation and will have to live with the deserved disapprobation of the Chinese people and others around the world. I really think this one will come back to bite you, just as your Iraq coverage did.

  • Comment number 36.

    Firstly I am not from the BBC, I have no connection to the BBC, as I am not resident in the UK I do not even pay for the BBC.

    Secondly as to your claim that, "Neither here not anywhere else in the article is this figure sourced to the 'government in exile' - at least in the on-line version of the article that I am reading. Read the full article yourself and see."

    The article,


    "The exiled Tibetan government says at least 80 protesters died in a Chinese crackdown beginning last week."

    Additionally while the evidentiary weight of the TV footage is much higher than reports and it does give weight to the Chinese version of events that there was violence from the protesters it does not support their casualty figures for either victims of the protesters or the police. I have already stated that the impression I got as a Newsnight viewer was that there had been riots.

    As for the BBC being biased and hence not allowed into the TAR, those horrible westerners in the Hong Kong media were also excluded from the TAR after trouble started.

  • Comment number 37.

    NetherlandBloke - you are right, I missed it. However, I have to say that it is very easy to miss (I only found it by doing a search for '80' in my browser). The placement of the first occurrence of the figure 80 certainly seemed designed to give the impression that there was some other source for the figure other than the Government in Exile. 'The locution 'are reported to have died...' is of course always a cover for either extreme laziness or bias. An honest organization will always say, right there, who reported it, and on what evidence.

    All this leaves unaddressed, of course, the complete lack of the much-better-documented number of people killed by rioters. A casual or even moderately serious reader would come away with the impression that 80 people died in the riots, that this is an established fact, and that all of them were killed by the Chinese.

    As I say, I have no axe to grind, but:. If I were in the Chinese Government I would not let the BBC into the TAR, and I would not let the majority of the other media in either. I say this as someone who normally believes in the freedom of the press but there is some minimum duty of responsibility in reporting that had not been met. I'm sure the Chinese will allow the BBC back into the TAR eventually, but it won't be because they deserve it.

  • Comment number 38.

    As for casualty figures: a figure of 6 at least is certainly supported by the video I have seen, since there is an interview with the sole survivor of a group of women of whom the other 5 were burned to death, and an elderly Chinese man is stoned to death right on-camera.

  • Comment number 39.

    A very interesting question. which a news organization that was truly on the ball would have asked: the Government-In-Exile seems to have relatively precise casualty figures. How do they know?

    If, as the Chinese claim, the GIE were in contact with the rioters, it would of course make sense that they would know. If they were NOT in contact with the rioters, what is their information source? Whatever information channel was used to communicate the casualty figures, could have been used in reverse to tell the rioters to cut it out if the will had been there to do so. Why wasn't this done? Did anyone ask the Government in Exile? Amazing the questions the media doesn't ask when it doesn't want to hear the answers.

  • Comment number 40.

    Paul: On your comments on "lies" from BBC

    Case one: Follow this link below and click picture #7
    Look at photo and the footage that reads:
    "Tibetan exiles have accused Chinese forces of firing into crowds and brutally suppressing the demonstrations"

    I believe your editor knows exactly where this photo came from and it's background (it's from a video widely circulated in Youtube) but he or your boss added the footage on purpose to mislead the audience and to enhance the lie.
    Even as a propaganda, could you please do it in a smarter way? It made everybody here sick.

    Case two: Click this link and read.

    "China enforced a long-held claim to Tibet in 1950, and it was subsequently incorporated into Chinese territory"

    There are only 3 choices to comment about this statement and you tell me which one is true:
    a. A lie on purpose
    b. A nonsense.
    c. It's published on April 1st

    You would be equally angry or take it as a joke if it reads:

    UK enforced a long-held claim to Scotland in 1960, and it was subsequently incorporated into British territory.

    Any comments?

  • Comment number 41.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 42.

    Well - of the two examples posted by BigFoot65, I think the second could perhaps be regarded as a matter of opinion rather than an outright lie, though I can certainly see how it could be upsetting to the Chinese.

    As for the first: the photo shows criminal behavior by one of the Tibetan mob, and does not in any way illustrate the claim made in its caption. Was that simply an error? It would seem reasonable that if you don't have photographic evidence to back up a claim, you don't attach that claim to a picture of something else, but simply don't repeat the claim until you have evidence.

  • Comment number 43.

    I do, however, think that the analogy bigFoot456 makes to the relationship between England and Scotland is illuminating. Historically the relationship between China and Tibet had followed a somewhat similar trajectory to that between England and Scotland, with periods of uneasy coexistence, alliance, open war, alliances by marriage, making common cause with each other's enemies (France, Mongolia), religious strife, interference in each others' internal affairs, annexation, and most recently a desire for greater autonomy which in the case of Scotland has been largely met by peaceful means (regional assembly etc).

    Unfortunately what the Dalai Lama means by autonomy is much more separation than Scotland currently has: it would correspond to setting up immigration checkpoints at Hadrian's Wall.

  • Comment number 44.

    #42: I would rather take that photo and its caption as an error on purpose. The similar type of error has been made across UK, USA, Germany, France, Canada on numerous TV, newspapers, websites, magazines repeatedly within a week (refer to How could one react to such a hurricane full of media nonsence? - "Liar! Liar! Liar!" - that perhaps is the best way to express his or her feelings from Chinese protesters in front of CNN and BBC building.

    #27: Regarding your comment "When I see a voice on CCTV openly advocating independence for Taiwan or Tibet, freedom for Hu Jia, amnesty for the victims of the Tiananmen square massacre - indeed even the term "massacre" - the Chinese media will have reached the same level of openness as the western media, flawed as it is."

    Paul: I partially agree with you and the Chinese are learning from you - it takes time, the sooner, the better.
    However, don't be too self-righteous and believe most of Chinese people are brainwashed, believe everything they are told. They are very skilled in dealing with the media - being Chinese media or western media.
    - For Chiness media, they know many things happened but blocked, not reported.
    - For western media, they know sometimes something happened but blocked plus something never happened but fabricated and reported freely.

  • Comment number 45.

    bigfoot456, let's look at the photo caption in context. There are 7 photos,

    1. The caption states that order has restored in Lhasa after Chinese troops flooded the city.
    2. Rebuilding work is going on.
    3. A statement of the Tibetan exile's point of view.
    4. A statement of the Chinese claim over arrest figures.
    5. There are new pictures of a riot.
    6. The Chinese say rioters killed people.
    7. The Exiles say the police used brutal tactics.

    To me the captions as a whole seem balanced. If you take the final image and caption out of context then it may appear the BBC is pushing the pro-Exile line. However I can't imagine there is a person stupid enough in the world to believe that a picture of a man throwing a bike is in any way representative of the caption. Just as no rightminded person would say that picture 4 shows people peacefully handing themselves in to police. I think that maybe it was a mistake on the part of the journalist to use this caption with this photo (perhaps a picture of the Dahlai Lama would be a better illustration) but I do not see that this mistake would mislead any sensible reader.

    As for the second part, Tibet's status in the early 20th century is different to what it is now. The Lamas had quite a lot of power and during the period when the Republic of China was weakest Beijing/Nanjing had a much weaker influence than now or did in the past. There clearly was a governmental change after 1950/1959 and this could easily be seen as China incorporating a dependent/autonomous territory into the territory it administers. Clearly this passage is trying to communicate this sensitive part of the subject (which it does in much more detail in the History tab), unfortunately it is a bit muddled.

    A better UK analogy would be the Union between Britain and Ireland in 1800. Ireland had long been claimed by the English/British crown but had a degree of autonomy (though most of the population were disenfranchised) but was incorporated into a full union governed from Westminster. I see a lot of Chinese commenters equating Free Tibet with Free Scotland/Northern Ireland. The difference of course is if the people of Scotland or Northern Ireland want independence they can get it through the ballot box and there are a number of political parties advocating such moves. Could either of these things happen in Tibet in the current situation?

  • Comment number 46.

    I guess the bigger point to the caption is: the BBC keeps says 'it is reported that...' or 'exiles say...', but they never cite any evidence. Not even a single snap of these alleged events from someone's cell phone (Cell phones are ubiquitous in Tibet.)

    Paul, do you have any curiosity about the fact that so many of these allegations from exile groups do not have so much as a single cell phone snap to support them?

    A lot of these allegations take on the status of 'urban legends', where a group puts out a statement without evidence and then a media whispering gallery repeats it without independently checking it. I have read many posts by Western readers who say that since they have seen the same statements in many different media outlets, therefore they must be true. This would be so if the media actually checked, but they don't. To me this is a violation of journalistic principles.

    This unfortunately means that checking different Western media on Tibet is, as the philosopher Wittgenstein said, 'Like buying several copies of the same morning paper to see if what it said was true.'

  • Comment number 47.

    Sorry I was not able to post recently - working on crazy English stories about cracks in the regime.

  • Comment number 48.

    Paul -

    I hope this new story at least has some actual evidence and named sources.

    Then either supply evidence and named sources for what you have already reported or else apologize, and you'd be square and could move on.

  • Comment number 49.

    VOW BBC was caught right on site!
    Follow the link below and findout how your news story was fabricated. I told you!

    Paul: Are you sure your Golden Chapter is mandated or fabricating news is a special freedom that western media should have.

  • Comment number 50.

    Sterilisations of Tibetan women?!
    Come on!Where did you heard about this stupid tale?
    The government takes birth-control policy in Hans,not in other 55 minorities,including tibetain(Zang). In 1951 the population of Zang's is 1.1409million, contrastively there is 2.8415million in last year,2007,5/2 times in 50 years.Birth rate is 16.4%now.19.9%of them live in town.
    I'm not speaking in advocacy of the communist party,but the rumour is just so unbearable,it's so unfair for our Han people,the only majority nationality in birth control.

  • Comment number 51.

    #27 Paul, Here are more of your lies

    Case #3: Your news report on Pro Tibet Protest in Olympic Torch Relay, London, Check the link below:

    Under the pargraph titled "Human rights"

    You lied:

    "PICTURES of the London relay were broadcast on China's state-controlled TV, but NOT of the protests and disruption"

    The truth is, CCTV not only showed the picture of the protests and disruption, but also the video.


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