4.2.1 Background Information
The purpose of the 2008 Tibetan unrest was to protest against Chinese rule in Tibet. It began on March 10, 2008, which was the 49th anniversary of the failed uprising in Tibet against Beijing's rule since 1959. The protests started with 300 monks demanding the release of their fellow monks who were detained since last fall. Soon after, the monks started demanding against politics too and hence the protests turned violent. Riots and burning of official vehicles and police stations started from March 14, thus making this unrest known also as the 3•14 Riots. The riots took place in Lhasa, Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Beijing. Premier of People's Republic of China, Wen Jiabao, felt that Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, was the mastermind behind the unrest. However, the Dalai Lama denied and stated that the uprising was caused by wide discontentment of he people in Tibet. This tension between China and Tibet was going on up to the 2008 Olympics in Beijing. Hence, various international media reported about the human rights violation in China.
After that, the Dalai Lama demanded for the Chinese government to stop their military crackdown and to remove Tibet from the Olympic torch route. Both sides agreed to have a meeting to discuss further, thus, the protests played down much more. The meeting was to be held on 11 June, 2008 but was later postponed, due to the Szechuan Earthquake in May, to 1 July, 2008. The total number of casualties was later estimated to be more than 400 and thousands were arrested for participating in the riots. On March 28, it was reported that 5 shop girls, aged between 19 to 24, were torched alive when the rioters burned the Yishion clothing store they were working at. During the protests, a total of 241 police officers were injured with 23 in critical condition.
4.2.2 Media Coverage
When the Tibetan riots was at its initial stage, Chinese officials tried to keep information from the public and to soften the whole event. A correspondent from The Guardian, Tania Branigan, said that the Chinese government blocked foreign broadcasters and websites and did not allow foreign journalists to enter the areas of unrest. This was to prevent them from obtaining information about the riots and report them to the rest of the world. At that time, the 2008 Olympics Torch Relay was going on and the China government did not want the focus to be obscured. Many websites were subjected to restriction, like popular video sharing websites like YouTube, the whole The Guardian website, some parts of the Yahoo! portal and portions of The Times website too.
However, after some time, western media started to publish bias reports about the Tibetan riots to the public. Hence, the Chinese government responded and stopped trying to downplay the whole event. They wanted to let the rest of the world know the truth and not let them be misled by the western media. TV channels aired several hours of anti-Chinese unrests in Lhasa and the aftermath of the riots. Employees of Chinese broadcasting station, CCTV, were told to continue airing footages of shops that were burned during the riots and those who were injured. Soon, footages of violence in Tibet could be seen on almost every Chinese TV channel and posters of 24 Tibetans, accused of being the masterminds behind the whole incident, were posted on Yahoo! to assist China in capturing them.
The western media reported the Tibetan unrest with inaccuracy and in a slightly different light. A Chinese newspaper China Daily reported in the papers that there was biasness in the western media's coverage of the riots in Tibet and the European and US media deliberately misrepresented the whole event to place China in bad light. Washington Post was reported to have used pictures of Nepalese police officers in clashes with the protestors in Kathmandu, and claiming that the police officers were Chinese. CNN also used a cropped picture in their reports that did not display the whole truth of the situation. After the Chinese criticised them, CNN replaced the picture with one that was cropped in a different way. All these untrue reports about the riots made the Chinese very displeased with the western media.
A German TV news station, RTL, and TV station, n-tv, admitted that they had aired footages that were actually from Nepal by mistake. Many Chinese students were very unhappy that they even set up a anti-CNN website online to show evidences of the untrue articles that the foreigners have been reporting to the public. In order to respond to the falsified reports made by the western media, China allowed foreign journalists to enter the areas of unrest. This was to allow them to get real and true information about the crisis in China at that time so that the western media will not mislead the readers outside of China. Some of the media companies that were accused of publishing bias reports are CNN, FOX, The Times Online and Sky News. CNN has also apologised to China about some of the comments that they have made in their previous news articles. This is a pitfall for ICT as it is up to the reader's perception, whether they choose to believe the information they obtain from the Internet or to question it. Indeed, impressionable people will believe whatever is said and this may lead to dire consequences when untrue information and rumours start spreading around. Moreover, with ICT, such false information can be passed around very quickly to the whole world and it will not be ideal since it may result in displeasure.
4.2.4 International Reaction
During the time of the Tibetan unrest, vice-president of the International Olympic Committee, Thomas Bach, said that there was the threat of a possible boycott by some of the athletes due to their displeasure towards the upset in Tibet. However, the vice-president managed to convince these athletes that it would be more beneficial to them to be present rather than to avoid the whole event. This feeling of unhappiness was because some of the people felt that sports should not be linked to any political problems as it tarnishes the spirit of sports altogether. The Tibetan unrest disrupted the Beijing Olympics Torch Relay thus causing bitterness in some of the athletes who were going to take part in the games.
At the beginning, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner and Belgian Vice Premier Didier Reynards did consider the idea of boycotting the 2008 Beijing Olympics Opening Ceremony. However, they ruled out this idea after much consideration as it would only serve to harm the countries' athletes, who had spent much time and effort in their training to be able to qualify for the games and bring honour to their country. Even the 14th Dalai Lama emphasized that he was against the idea of boycotting any of the Olympics events. He said that the Chinese people should not be blamed for the unrest that happened in Tibet and that the rest of the world should still recognise the fact that China was a good host for the 2008 games.
Another famous incident that was initiated due to the Tibetan riots was the comment made by Hollywood star Sharon Stone. During the Cannes film festival held in May 2008, she commented that the Szechuan earthquake was bad 'karma' due to the Tibetan riots that occured earlier in March 2008. She even cited the Dalai Lama as her 'good friend'. Even though, the Dalai Lama admits to knowing Sharon Stone, he in facts disagree with her comment. Sharon Stone's controversial comment sparked off outrage among the Chinese in China as it was a very insensitive remark made in the face of an immense tragedy. People criticised her through online forums and blogs. Christian Dior, which she advertised for, even dropped her from its advertisements, hence she had to step out and apologise to the Chinese in China for her wrongful remark. This further proves that ICT is a very powerful tool in spreading information globally and at a very fast pace.
AFP.google (April 04, 2008). China urged to drop Tibet from Olympic torch route. AFP. Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://afp.google.com/article/ALeqM5jt-Bnn9Znx27RmyvpYHjCuHNK8Yg
Bennhold.K (March 18, 2008). France raises idea of boycotting Olympics ceremony over Tibet. International Herald Tribune. Retrieved on October 23, 2008 from http://www.iht.com/articles/2008/03/18/asia/react.php
Branigan.T (March 18, 2008). State TV switches to non-stop footage of Chinese under attack. Guardian UK. Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2008/mar/18/tibet.china1
IHT.com (March 19, 2008). Kouchner backtracks on idea for mini-boycott at Olympic opening ceremony. International Herald Tribune. Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://www.iht.com/articles/ap/2008/03/19/sports/EU-SPT-OLY-France-Beijing-Boycott.php
News.asiaone (June 12, 2008). Dalai Lama baulks at Sharon Stone's 'karma' quake remark. AsiaOne News. Retrieved on November 12, 2008 from http://news.asiaone.com/News/Latest+News/Showbiz/Story/A1Story20080612-70454.html
Observers.france24 (March 21, 2008). Yahoo and MSN helping to root out TInetan rioters. The Observers. Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://observers.france24.com/en/content/20080321-yahoo-msn-used-root-out-tibetan-rioters-china
Pradesh.H (April 04, 2008). Dalai Lama calls fro more global pressure on China. Sify news. Retrieved on October 23, 2008 from
Reuters (June 06, 2008). Tibet, China talks postponed after quake - Dalai aide. Reuters. Retrieved on October 23, 2008 from http://in.reuters.com/article/worldNews/idINIndia-33939420080606
Richards.J (March 17, 2008). China blocks YouTube, Yahoo! over Tibet. Times Online. Retrieved on October 23, 2008 from http://technology.timesonline.co.uk/tol/news/tech_and_web/article3568040.ece
Tabuchi.H & Okamura.N (April 11, 2008). Dalai Lama Pans China. The Wall Street Journal. Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://online.wsj.com/public/article/SB120781274458604467.html?mod=todays_free_feature
featureUSAToday.com (March 03, 2008). 10 dead in violent protests in TIbet capital. USA Today. Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/2008-03-14-china-tibet_N.htmXia.X
N.htmXia.X (March 18, 2008). Premier: ample facts prove Dalai's role in Lhasa riot, door of dialogue still open. Xinhuanet. Retrieved on October 24, 2008 from http://news.xinhuanet.com/english/2008-03/18/content_7813012.htm
Picture courtesy of http://www.straitstimes.com/Latest+News/Asia/STIStory_224075.html
Picture of burning car courtesy of http://www.flickr.com/photos/25780509@N03/2423034626/