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.