By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Citizen journalism in Tibet

Global Voices Online is tracking the protests in Tibet, which, according to the New York Times, comprise “the most serious and prolonged demonstrations in Tibet since the late 1980s, when it suppressed a rebellion there with lethal force that left scores, and possibly hundreds, of ethnic Tibetans dead.” (Note: Photo depicts a 2006 demonstration in Oxford, London, England.)

Interestingly, what’s coming in via Global Voices — an international blog-aggregation project begun at Harvard Law’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society — is not all pro-independence by any means. Example:

When those insane dalais gathered in the street today and surrounded and viciously beat those Han Chinese, while they used lighters to light fire to shop after shop, while they threw molotovs at cars parked on the sides of the road, I really felt afraid, and that this is inconceivable. What you are destroying is the very place that you live in. Aren’t you followers of the Living Buddha? You think this is something your Living Buddha instructed you to do, to destroy the very place that you live in? I think that most of these people haven’t thought about this, and that most of them have been deceived by the words of certain people who would see the motherland split! But if you just think about it, just who was it that made Tibet the developed place it is today? Who set up the bridge between Tibet and the whole world? And who is it that sends qualified people each year from every sector to educate the children of Tibet with knowledge and culture? AND who is it that sends aid from every developed city in the motherland each year to assist Tibet? I think you seem to have forgotten all this……

It could be legitimate, it could be propaganda. But there’s no doubt that many ethnic Chinese live in Tibet, as the Chinese government has encouraged internal migration in order to keep the Tibetan independence movement in check. By this estimate, about 100,000 of the 2.2 million people living in Tibet are Chinese, not counting soldiers and police officers. So despite the Dalai Lama‘s message of peace, reports that Tibetans are attacking Chinese seem credible.

The Times is putting out a call for citizen journalists.

If this keeps building, we’re going to see whether the Age of the Internet is more powerful than the Age of Fax. In 1989, the Chinese democracy movement — fueled in part by mass-circulated faxes — came to a horrifying end in Tiananmen Square. The Internet, though, is a significantly more powerful organizational tool.

The Chinese government can try to shut it down, and it may succeed. That’s what the Burmese government did last year. But now, even more than in 1989, the whole world is watching. And Chinese behavior would seem to be constricted given that it’s hosting the Olympics this summer.

Photo (cc) by nic0, and is republished here under a Creative Commons license. Some rights reserved.

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  1. Anonymous

    Wow, and in pitch-perfect English too…and of course the Tibetans craved for a “bridge to the world” and “culture and knowledge.” Yeah, that’s gotta be real. *eye roll*

  2. Dan Kennedy

    It’s a translation. Here’s the original:当今天那些疯狂的达赖教众在街上围堵殴打过往的汉族人时,当他们用打火机点燃一处又一处商铺时,当他们将火苗扔向停靠在路边的汽车时,我真的感觉到很害怕且不可思议。你们在毁坏的可是你们自己的家园,你们不是信仰活佛吗?难道这些是你们的活佛指示你们做的?是活佛指示你们尽情毁坏你们的家园的吗?我想这些大部分人都是没有想过的,大部分人都是被某些想分裂祖国的人的言辞所欺骗!但你们可以想想,是谁让西藏发展成今天的模样,是谁架起了西藏与全世界人民的桥梁,又是谁每年从内地调派各类人才到西藏来教与西藏孩子知识与文化,更是谁每年从祖国的各个发达城市播款来援藏!这些我想你们都已经忘记……

  3. mike_b1

    Dammit Dan, you know we don’t read Spanish.

  4. Rambo 5

    Great analysis. Communist Regimes have proven to be the greatest Totalitarian Regimes…by their own admission Stalin + Mao + PolPot eliminated 50 million +. Check out mine’s to see why Indian Communists are opposing the Nuclear Deal.But then, I’M USED TO WORKING BEHIND ENEMY LINES -)

  5. Anonymous

    Interesting tidbit: the ruler of the Tibetan province during the 1989 crackdown? Hu Jintao…same guy who’s China’ Paramount Leader at the moment.

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