Spinning Tibet

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Here’s something I did on the media battle over the Tibet events. And here is an account of how the best laid plans for media management can go horribly wrong. (It’s from the Associated Press but I reproduce it whole as I got it from behind a paywall):

Associated Press in Lhasa
12:30pm, Mar 27, 2008

A group of Buddhist monks disrupted a government-managed tour by foreign reporters to Tibet’s capital on Thursday, screaming that there was no religious freedom there and that the Dalai Lama was not to blame for the city’s recent violence.

The outburst by a group of about 30 monks came as the journalists, including an Associated Press reporter, were being shown around the Jokhang Temple – one of Tibet’s holiest shrines – by government handlers in Lhasa.

“Tibet is not free! Tibet is not free!” yelled one young Buddhist monk, who then started crying.

They also said their exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, had nothing to do with recent anti-government riots by Tibetans in Lhasa, where buildings were torched and looted, and ethnic Han Chinese were attacked.

The government has said the March 14 riots were masterminded by “the Dalai clique,” Beijing’s term for the Dalai Lama and his supporters.

Government handlers shouted for the journalists to leave and tried to pull them away during the protest.

The government had arranged the trip for the reporters to show how calm Lhasa was after the deadly riots shattered China’s plans for a peaceful run-up to the Beijing Summer Olympics.

“They want us to crush the Dalai Lama and that is not right,” one monk said during the 15-minute outburst.

“This had nothing to do with the Dalai Lama,” said another, referring to the March 14 riots. The Chinese government says 22 people died, while Tibetan exiles say the violence plus a harsh crackdown afterward have left nearly 140 people dead.

The outburst by the monks came amid a morning of stage-managed events. Reporters had already been taken to a Tibet medical clinic that had been attacked nearby the Jokhang, and shown a the clothing stores where five girls had been trapped and burned to death.

The monks, who first spoke Tibetan and then switched to Mandarin so the reporters could understand them, said they knew they would probably be arrested for their actions but were willing to accept that.