Wednesday, June 25, 2008
BREAKING: TIBET SAFE FOR TOURISTS; NOT YET FOR JOURNALISTS
ast Saturday morning, as journalists prepared for the staged show of Lhasa's unity under armed guard, a few who had gone freelance the night before (making unapproved and unchaperoned trips into the old city) were reprimanded by their handlers, who claimed to be worried for their safety. "Anything could happen," they were told. When it was pointed out that Chinese paramilitary forces were on every street-corner, the minders mumbled vaguely about "intelligence reports" of attacks.
That was Saturday. On Tuesday, China's state-run Party mouthpiece, Xinhua, quoted Tanor, the deputy director of the regional tourism authority, who hailed the heavily militarized relay of harmony as a great success that proved Tibet's stability.
"Tibet is safe. We welcome the domestic and foreign tourists."Two Swedish tourists were due to arrive on Wednesday. It's amazing what a difference just a few days can make.
The Chinese Foreign Ministry also had a press conference on Wednesday, at which a reporter asked spokesperson Liu Jianchao when journalists would be permitted to enter Tibet:
"As for your second question, we understand your wishes to go to Tibet. We will try to make early arrangement for your trip to Tibet after the local situation is further improved."Well. For a minute there I thought the torch of harmony might have worked a miracle for the Party, but I guess not. It's not safe for journalists yet, but ready to welcome tourists, I see... (actually, it's safe for both, I'm sure - it's just not safe yet for Tibetans).
Beijing doesn't like "politicization of the Olympics." Officials have made that abundantly clear for months.
"We will certainly be able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique." - Zhang Qingli, Tibet "Autonomous" Region Communist Party boss, at the scorching finish line of harmony, below the Potala Palace of the Dalai Lamas of Tibet.
"We are convinced that the Beijing Olympic Games' torch relay in Lhasa will further inflame the patriotic spirit of the people," Lhasa's Communist Party boss Qin Yizhi said at the opening ceremony, adding it would also help "smash the scheming of the Dalai Lama clique".
IOC communications director Giselle Davies said Beijing organisers (BOCOG) had been asked to provide the contents of Zhang Qingli's speech and said it "would regret very much" if media reports were accurate...Apparently, preliminary investigations into the strident Communist Party officials' remarks bore out the IOC's concerns, and they decided it was time to grow some, reminding China to keep politics and sport separate (as the CCP has issued shrill demands for all others to do).
The transcript of Zhang's speech on the website of the Tibet Information Office website (info.tibet.cn) omitted the line about the Dalai Lama.
"The IOC regrets that political statements were made during the closing ceremony of the torch relay in Tibet," it said, reacting to Saturday's remarks (local time) by Zhang Qingli, the Chinese Communist party secretary in Tibet.Tsk, tsk, don't do it again. Perhaps this warning only applies to official events. Wouldn't authorities briefing journalists, officially selected to cover the official event, also constitute an official function?
"We have written to BOCOG (Beijing Olympics Organising Committee) to remind them of the need to separate sport and politics and to ask for their support in making sure that such situations do not arise again," it added, in an email from its headquarters in the Swiss city of Lausanne.
James Reynolds, the BBC's China correspondent, has an entertaining blog post on his final experiences before the journalists were bussed to the airport departure lounge - Tibet in translation. They were allowed to pose a couple of questions to a monk during a tour of Sera Monastery. The monk was Lobsang Choepel, head of the monastery's "Democratic Management Committee," the Party's watchdog inside these institutions.
One reporter asks: "What do you think of the Dalai Lama?"I hear this a lot lately. Tibetans normally feel deeply offended by PRC officials constantly call His Holiness simply "Dalai." Could that be why they insist on doing it anyway?
The monk replies in Tibetan. The government interpreter translates his words into English: "The Dalai is the head of the Gelupa sect and I, myself, when I was young, I also learned religious scriptures from Dalai. In terms of religion, we believe in Dalai, but I don't recognise or accept what he says and what he does."
Does he teach the younger monks about the Dalai Lama ?
Answer (through the interpreter): "I'm not introducing Dalai to the students."
An interesting small point - when Lobsang Choepel speaks in Tibetan we clearly hear him say the words "Dalai Lama". But the interpreter uses the single word "Dalai" - a term often used by the Chinese government, which can come across to Tibetans as derogatory.
Reynolds also put together some interesting video he recorded himself, of the magical media tour experience (a lot of it is looking out the window of the media bus), which can be viewed on his blog.