by Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, June 3: China has invited second batch of reporters to Lhasa for coverage of Tibet situation on Tuesday. But the batch consists of only a selective group of reporters from media organizations in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.
A Tibetan Buddhist monk, centre, cries as he and fellow monks disrupted an official news briefing in Lhasa, Thursday, March 27, 2008. About 30 Buddhist monks ambushed the first Chinese government-managed media tour of Lhasa that lasted for three days. The monks reportedly screamed there was no religious freedom and that the Dalai Lama was not to blame for Lhasa's violence. The group protested against Chinese rule, as AP reporter at the scene described one young monk who yelled “Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free” and then burst into tears. (phayul.com / AP Photo)
Thirty-one reporters from 18 media organizations in Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao traveled here for coverage of Tibet on Tuesday, China’s Communist Party controlled state news agency reported Tuesday.
“The reporters, representing 15 organizations from Hong Kong, one from Macao and two from Taiwan, are the second batch of reporters invited to Tibet after the March 14 Lhasa riots,” the report stated.
According to the report, the group of reporters arrived in Lhasa on Monday for a three-day visit. The group would also visit Shannan
(Tib: Lhokha) during the apparently government-managed media tour.
However, the report quoted an unnamed official with the Tibet Autonomous Region government as saying that the trip would “provide open news coverage without any restriction”.
“During the three-day visit, reporters will have extensive contact with officials, monks and common people, and they will be able to interview shop owners whose shops were damaged during the riot,” the Xinhua report claimed.
China’s slow and crafted decision to take carefully selected group journalists from time to time since protests broke out in Tibet in March can be seen as a show of control and return to normalcy of the situation in Tibet before the 2008 Beijing Olympics would begin in two months time.
Since the first peaceful protests broke out in Lhasa on March 10, Chinese authorities took no time in flooding Lhasa and other Tibetan areas with military troops and armed police, creating an atmosphere, described by many, as being similar to the martial law situation imposed in 1989.
Authorities also quickly sealed off Tibet from foreign reporters and tourists, making it extremely difficult to verify information. Foreign press were also stopped from travelling to Tibetan areas outside the so-called Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) in Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces where fierce protests have broken out.
In the absence of foreign media, Chinese authorities through the state controlled media began releasing images and television footage of violent people, purportedly to be Tibetans, accusing them of inciting violence in Lhasa.
Eyewitnesses, however, point out that those shown in some pictures were actually Chinese police in Tibetan outfits sent out by authorities to incite communal violence among Han Chinese and Tibetans that would give authorities justification for their violent crackdown.
Fearing worst repression for Tibetans inside Tibet, the exiled Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Government-in-Exile have repeatedly called on international community to persuade China to allow independent fact-finding missions and foreign media to monitor the situation inside Tibet instead of relying on one-sided information from Chinese government.
China reluctantly allowed first group of foreign journalists into the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 26 for a two-day visit since Tibetans staged a series of protests across Tibet against China’s repressive rule in their homeland that began in 1949.
“The moves appear calculated to bolster government claims that authorities are in control of the situation and that the protests that began peacefully were acts of destruction and murder,” the Associated Press wrote to describe China’s decision at that time.
The Chinese government claim at least 22 people have died in Lhasa violence. However, the Tibetan Government-in-Exile based in India says Chinese armed troops have killed more than 200 Tibetans, injuring hundreds more and jailing several more for taking part in peaceful demonstrations.