Author Topic: Western media miss the real Tibet story - By Michael Backman  (Read 6094 times)


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Western media miss the real Tibet story
 By Michael Backman (Australian Journalist)
 The Age
 April 9, 2008
 AFTER several years of highlighting wrongdoers in Asia in these pages and providing
viewpoints that run counter to prevailing wisdom, I've at last received my first
death threat.
 Probably not that serious (it came anonymously by email) but something of a career
milestone, nonetheless. It came from someone who claims to be a Tibetan refugee in
India and a follower of the Dalai Lama.
 My correspondent informed me that the next time I visit India I will be killed
(eaten, he said) and my family will never find my body.
 What annoyed my correspondent was a column I wrote last year for The Age in which I
highlighted some aspects of the Dalai Lama that most media reports ignore: the fact
that in running his government in exile, he has been extraordinarily nepotistic by
appointing many relatives to senior positions, and that during the 1950s, '60s and
into the '70s he was personally on the CIA's payroll, for example.
 Last week, the column was reproduced without permission on a North American website
and, in the context of the
 problems in Tibet, it added to the already fraught emotions of those who care
strongly about this issue.
 The original column was written to coincide with the Dalai Lama's visit to
Australia last year. It was written to counterbalance the huge, uncritical media
coverage given to the Dalai Lama in the Australian media at that time.
 I have always felt that the coverage accorded to the Dalai Lama in the Western
media has been excessively favourable and uncritical, just as the media coverage in
China of the Dalai Lama is appallingly biased but in the negative.
 Clearly, in the past few weeks, ethnic Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese
military. This has been widely reported.
 But it is also clear that ethnic Chinese have been murdered by ethnic Tibetans in
racially based attacks. This has not been made as clear in the Western media. And
yet, the Western media were rightly appalled in 1998 when ethnic Chinese were raped
and murdered in Jakarta for similar reasons — perceived excessive economic control
at the expense of non-Chinese locals.
 In Lhasa, four Chinese girls and one Tibetan girl were burned alive when a clothing
store in which they worked was set alight by Tibetan protesters. But the rampage
against the Chinese was not as simple as an attack on Han Chinese. Ethnic Chinese
Muslim traders were also rounded on. Muslim traders have a centuries-old presence
in Lhasa, a legacy of the ancient Silk Road. But in the unrest two weeks ago, the
main mosque in Lhasa's old quarter was also burned down.
 The apparent swamping of Tibetan culture by Chinese migrants is a tragedy. But the
killing of ethnic Chinese small-business people, or indeed anyone else, is also
wrong and no doubt one of the reasons why the Dalai Lama has threatened to resign.
 But again, the treatment of this seems to suggest the Western media have their own
bias when it comes to reporting on Tibet. Unfortunately, this blunts criticism that
can be made of China when it comes to its own propagandising.
 With regards to China and Tibet, unequivocal right does not reside on either side.
Both sides point to sound historical arguments to bolster their case. China
genuinely believes that Tibet has long been a part of China. The Tibetans genuinely
believe the opposite.
 Ordinary Chinese in China regard the Tibetans as thankless and selfish. On my last
visit to Beijing, one young Chinese described them as aggressive and unappreciative
of all the development that China has provided them. I told him that their main
concern is that they are being swamped by Chinese migrants seemingly as a
calculated attempt at cultural genocide. A look of surprise flashed across his
face. He'd not heard this argument before and yet its logic clearly appealed to
him. He'd never heard it because the Chinese media have never reported it.
 Nationalism has been rising in China, so it is unlikely that such a view will get a
hearing in China. Many Western investors will probably find their passage in China
eased if they make clear statements in favour of China on the issue too.
 Potentially, China did do ordinary Tibetans a great service when it overthrew the
rule of the Dalai Lama, the rich monasteries and a coterie of wealthy aristocratic
families whose members typically were so laden with Sicilian coral, Iranian
turquoise and Burmese rubies that they could barely move. The overthrow has its
parallel in King Henry VIII's dissolution of the monasteries of England that had
developed a stranglehold over the land and the lives of the peasants.
 Unfortunately, in Tibet's case, what replaced theocratic, self-serving rule was
scarcely much better — the Chinese Communist Party. The local despots were replaced
by foreign ones.
 The first Starbucks in Lhasa is probably only one or two years away. This is a
tragedy, too, particularly for the many rich Western travellers who would rather
Tibet stay stuck in the Middle Ages for their own personal enjoyment, much in the
same way economic sanctions have preserved Burma as the world's largest living
 The vested interests that surround the Tibet issue are many and make it a great
deal more complicated than simple slogans such as "Free Tibet" suggest. If China is
ever going to neutralise this issue, it is going to have to learn to act with a
level of sophistication, maturity and self-confidence that it now lacks.
Apologising to Tibetans for their suffering under Chinese rule will need to be part
of the package. But obviously such a degree of enlightenment is years off.

jeff Ryan

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Re: Western media miss the real Tibet story - By Michael Backman
« Reply #1 on: April 26, 2008, 01:00:54 AM »
another good story...

Column: Truth about China not being told by mainstream media
« Last Edit: April 26, 2008, 01:03:04 AM by jeff Ryan »


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Re: Western media miss the real Tibet story - By Michael Backman
« Reply #2 on: January 11, 2013, 04:22:33 PM »
another good story...

Column: Truth about China not being told by mainstream media

The West have always seen Tibet through rose coloured lenses and it is a pity that the Tibetan government in exile hopelessly failed to convert all those sentiments into actual political gains. Nothing much has changed for the Tibetan refugees since the Dalai Lama was awarded the coveted Nobel peace Prize and Tibetan issue was on the tongue of every romantic westerner with a conscience. Tibet won the propaganda war (no doubt, ably fought on their behalf by the Americans) and yet it did not advance one bit.

It would appear that times are changing and now, almost 5 years since this thread was posted, we are beginning to see that the Chinese, in fact have been making genuine efforts to improve the lives of the Tibetans and preserving Tibetan Buddhist culture, while in the meantime the Central Tibetan Administration have been behaving more like a communist regime than a liberal democracy.

Today, the Dalai Lama is no longer the political head of the exiled Tibetans and we have instead a Harvard graduate   as the Prime Minister of the CTA and things seems to be the worse for wear for the Tibetans in exile. The Dorje Shugden ban is still in place although its effects are considerably less as Shugden practitioners learned to upkeep their practice clandestinely and Shugden lamas spread the practice overseas. All the ban did was divide an already disenfranchised people and cause a spiritual and intellectual drain as more and more lamas leave the Tibetan settlements due to the Shugden persecutions. And yet the CTA will not remove the ban.

China has evolved considerably in the last 5 years and today they are a force to be reckoned with and the Western nations are knowingly keeping their distance from the Dalai Lama and his clan. On the other hand, in the same 5-year period the CTA has lost considerable support from Western friends and has in fact regressed in terms of their march towards a democracy. As I write this, I feel a tinge of pain for the ordinary Tibetan in exile because from where I am standing, they will never regain their freedom from China the way the CTA is behaving and conducting itself. If western media did miss the real Tibet story, both western and eastern media are getting it straight now.


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Re: Western media miss the real Tibet story - By Michael Backman
« Reply #3 on: January 13, 2013, 04:50:56 AM »
I think this story reflects the real state of affairs in Tibet right now, that the Tibetans are not as nice and peaceful as the western media wants us to think they are. The western media has always be biased about tibetan media because they want to use the tibetan issue as a way to weaken China and to make China look bad, when in fact, China has been genuinely helping Tibet improve their situation while the Tibetans have not improved in terms of spiritual development at all. As the article above says that the han chinese see the Tibetans as unappreciative, that might have a sense of truth in it, just look at CTA in Dharamsala now and look at what they have contributed to the indian government for hosting them. Also, phayul and the western media has failed to make of any mention of the wrongdoings of the Tibetans in Tibet, they should really be fair and report everything that is happening instead of being biased. But I am sure China will keep the world updated of what is going on in China more and more over the years so that the people can decide for themselves what to believe.