September 9, 2011
   Posted in News Flash
By Staff Writer

By Mark Johnston

[Friday, 9 September 2011, 1:20 p.m.]
1.  Introduction

The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) control informational flows through an intricate system that censors sensitive information and restricts the spread of dissident ideas, replacing them with propaganda that run in accordance with party ideology. The PRC has two propaganda machines, which they use as spheres of influence to control public opinion in China and the rest of the world. The lack of transparency and limited capacity of local and foreign journalists makes reporting on certain news topics, human rights abuses, and Tibetan issues particularly problematic. Consequently, Tibet remains shrouded in a cloak of secrecy with many restrictions on journalists who are forced to conform to the dictates of the party, severely circumscribing the freedom of information. The PRC fills the informational void with its highly charged rhetoric in its attempt to propagate its own vision of the world.

2.   Internal Propaganda in the TAR

The affects of such a totalitarian system of control has been documented in the numerous accounts of overt oppression and coerced methods of propaganda, especially in the TAR, where nuns, monks, academics, and political dissidents have been intimidated, detained and arrested for trying to spread, what were labeled as ‘subversive’ or ‘splitist’ sentiments.1 In a telling statement by TAR Party Secretary, Zhang Qingli:

“The main responsibility of the TAR Propaganda Bureau is to persuade and guide all
Tibetans in the right political direction…and to more effectively convince all Tibetans to
accept the government’s authority unconditionally…through effective and suitable
programs, the media can turn all Tibetans against the Dalai Lama.”2

Entrenched forms of explicit propaganda are also used through the state schooling system and through forced ‘patriotic re-education’ programs.3 The institutionalization of the CCP’s ideology through the school system is used as an effective means of indoctrination by restricting Tibetan language, history and culture, and teaching revised versions through a Chinese perspective.1 The physiological toll that children bare in having to contend between two different versions of history and identity, from what is taught in school and what is taught at home, must be particularly onerous. Tashi, a nineteen year-old male from Shigatse Prefecture, explained in an interview with TCHRD: “Only one class was taught in Tibetan language at my school. All other classes were taught in Chinese. The teachers only taught about Chinese subjects [and] Chinese history.”2 The effects of such methods of teaching are increasingly becoming apparent as students finish school, some unable to speak their own local language, which contributes to an alienation of Tibetan identity and culture.3 Students are taught adulterated renderings of Tibetan history and according to Padma Choling, chairman of the TAR, he would have them believe:

“The democratic reform conducted 52 years ago abolished the cruel and
brutal serfdom that existed to exploit the Tibetan people for thousands
of years. The reform freed 1 million serfs and allowed the Tibetan people
to enjoy legal rights and interest…but the Dalai Lama and his supporters
have been attempting to separate Tibet from China and restore the feudal
serfdom.”7

Similarly, the use of ‘patriotic re-education programs’, once aimed mostly at nuns and monks, are now aimed at primary and secondary schools in an effort to prevent separatist political activities;8 though monks and nuns are often forced to attend intensive long-term courses to combat their culture of ‘separatist’ ideology.9 Despite exiting laws that protect the freedom of religious practice, those who do not attend the programs are expelled from the monastery, detained or imprisoned.10 Since the March 2008 protests, the re-education campaigns have expanded to lower levels of the population to, “promote stability within Tibet, with particular emphasis on undermining the influence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama,”11 through propaganda films and mass denunciations. Many are forced to watch films that misrepresent Tibet’s history as a repressive feudal society and that the PRC freed the country through ‘peaceful liberation’.12 The pervasive use of such programs show the extent of the PRC’s use of propaganda as means to control, influence and indoctrinate the minds of Tibetans into believing communist ideology.

The PRC, in its attempt to sway public opinion and draw sympathy from local Chinese and Tibetan communities, ardently defame those forces, both Western and Tibetan, who support Tibetan historical heritage and political autonomy or H. H. the Dalai Lama. By stigmatizing individuals and nations as being apart of ‘reactionary forces’, the PRC entrenches divisions that create an us versus them mentality. Similarly, the PRC tries to strengthen its position by voicing the opinions of those sympathetic to its cause by propagating ideas in articles and headlines, vehemently condemning those who do not toe the party-attacking journalists, activists and all political dissidents. Lhapa, the chief of the Democratic Management Committee of Jokhang Temple, in an article posted on Xinhua News website in 2011, was quoted to have said that monks honored Vice president Xi Jinping in a visit as if he were, “reuniting with a family member whom they have long time not seen.”13 Such overtly romanticized sentiments are quoted to display Tibetan-Chinese kinship, but to a more critical observer it would appear that Lhapa was merely trying to save face by praising his superior to appropriately commemorate the occasion. Eye-catching headlines serve to reinforce party opinion, as some studies have suggested that for every ten people who read the news only two will actually read the article, whereas the other eight will manage just to read the headlines. The CCP take advantage of this and use titles such as, “Dalai’s democracy practices are laughing stock” and “1st anniversary of Serfs’ Emancipation Day-Tibetans’ new life” which do little to promote a shared sense of identity, compromise or willingness to enter into dialogue, and only serves to further alienate and divide people against each other.

3.   External Propaganda on Tibet

In an attempt to shape international perceptions of Tibet, the PRC uses external propaganda in its attempts to make such views stick in the outside world.14 In projecting its image abroad, the CCP use the Internet and other media outlets to control and project a vision of ‘soft power’.15 An internal speech by the CCP’s top Internet official posted by accident on an official site before being promptly removed, outlines a vast array of institutions and methods to control opinion and, “create an international public opinion environment that is objective, beneficial and friendly to us.”16 The PRC’s has drawn much international attention and outrage over it policies regarding Tibet, though such allegations are dismissed as rumors, apart of a plot hatched by pro-American conspirators who envy China’s growing power in the world. In a conference statement made by State Council Information Minister Zhao Qizheng on June, 12th 2000:

“External publicity on Tibet is an important element of our country’s external
propaganda. It is also a very important element of our struggle against the
Dalai clique and hostile western forces. These efforts are related not only to
national and nationalities unity, but also to the open-door reform, progress
and stability of our country. Chinese state run Tibetology institutes…should
propagate our government’s policy in Tibet and progress of Tibet…They
should work hard and attain success in changing foreign public opinion on
Tibet issue…In short, we should make every effort to convert the Tibetology
institutes and specialists into an effective army of our external propaganda
for public opinion on Tibet.”17

Under the directive of the External Propaganda Department, the PRC have published over 500 reports, 100 films and television programs, 2 million copies of more than 60 types of Tibet related information material to expose the Dalai-clique’s ‘separatist’ policies.18 In trying to stress how much Tibet has benefited from Chinese ‘liberation’, the PRC emphasize its modernization and development programs; highlighting statistics that claim the government has invested over 60 billion Yuan in Tibet or that 95.6% of Tibetan children are in school and are happy, content, and grateful to their Chinese ‘liberators’.19 Such statistics are but inflated numbers that aim to legitimize themselves in the eyes of the international community, as such facts have never be reproduced by independent researchers because the PRC bars foreigners from conducting private research.20 In a statement given by Wang Chen, chief of the Cabinet’s Information Office back in 2010: “We will strengthen the blocking of harmful information from outside China to prevent harmful information from being disseminated in China.”21 In a disturbing example, depicting the extents to which the PRC has carried out this approach, back in November 2008, an official newspaper reported that seven Tibetans received sentences, ranging from eight years to life in connection with the March 2008 uprising charging them with disseminating nationalist material and providing information, “concerning national security and interests to organizations outside China.”22 This case represents the alarming readiness of the state to harshly penalize even the mildest forms of dissent. Though, the PRC has taken great lengths to purport an image of reform and openness to the outside world, it is but an empty ideal propagated by the state that lacks any measure of validity.

4.   Lack of Transparency

The government maintains such a tight control over media outlets through censorship and propaganda that those living outside China can only ever have a vague conception of the realities that exist within the country and subsequently come to know only what the authorities reveal.23 He Qinglian, a former editor back in China, succinctly stated in his book detailing the intricacies of the PRC’s censorship policies: “The China that foreign academics see is the China the Chinese government wants the world to see, and the news they hear is what the Chinese government wants the world to hear.”24

Preserving its autocratic rule remains the utmost importance and in keeping such forms in place the state deploys a massive amount of resources to protect itself from foreign influence. Even though such restrictions cannot filter through all potentially sensitive information, the lack of transparency, accountability and openness makes any critical analysis or investigative reporting potentially fraught with factual errors. The credibility of statistics generated from the state are questionable, since 2000 the government has enforced a ban restricting foreign institutions from conducting independent research without authorization from the Ministry of State Security, and since all research data must be submitted to the Ministry, the reliability of such statistics are uncertain.25

Similarly, foreign academics who base research papers on figures by the State Statistical Bureau use statistics that are meticulously filtered and approved for dissemination by the Ministry of State Security.26 He Qinglian, in his book, The Fog of Censorship, went so far as to state: “When conducting research on China, foreign scholars blithely base their conclusions on information from sources that, essentially, constitute a rumor mill.”27  Though He Qinglian makes a validate point in trying to show how difficult it may be in discerning truth in a country prone to secrecy, however such a sweeping statement does not give credence to the various channels of information, journalists or organizations who dedicate themselves to uncovering the truth. It is safe to say that foreign researchers are prone to making conceptualized arguments from what little information is made available. This may certainly be true for certain biographic, historical or ethnographical based field research, as such studies are likely to be influenced by the extended had of the state, who intimidate interviewees, alter statements, monitor expeditions and stifle liberal discussion.

The gap between the China manufactured by state propaganda and the China experienced by a majority of it citizens living in the countryside is vast and can not be measured nor ascertained through surveys, reports and statistics put forth by the CCP. The China presented to the world is but a shadow of the truth, a showcase that displays its strengths while harboring its weaknesses.

5.   Journalism in the TAR

Journalists reporting in the TAR experience flagrant forms of oppression by state and local authorities in trying to cover incidents deemed sensitive to the state, including everything from political protests and corruption scandals to natural and industrial accidents. Authorities conceal such incidents from journalists in an attempt to maintain a level of placidity amongst the local population, often times constructing roadblocks, using news blackouts, cutting mobile and telecommunications in an effort to contain the spread of ‘reactionary news’. The PRC also use other forms of intimidation to force journalists to self-censor their reports, as well as preventing ordinary people from providing information to domestic media rouses.28 Consequently, any exposé that does manage to appear in the press represents a hard-won battle by journalists, who often run the risk of endangering their own lives in order to publish certain investigative reports.29 He Qinglian appropriately captured what journalists go through in trying to cover such incidents: “It is difficult for non-journalists to appreciate the difficulties involved, not only in getting to the bottom of a story, but in battling various levels of the Chinese bureaucracy.”30 The state often times eases restrictions, giving the illusion of freedom of the press, only to later come down hard on all those journalists who liberalized their writings. There have been many reports detailing the disappearance and jailing of known journalists who vocalized their discontent with the CCP, including Rangjung from Kardze TAP, and Chen Daojun who each received a three years prison sentence for ‘inciting subversion’ in their writings.31

Official guidelines for journalists, enacted by the Central Propaganda Department, are ill-defined and subject to change at the discretion of officials who subjectively interpret such laws according to their judgment.32 Such protocols were often retroactively enforced by authorities who fire editors, journalists or close publication houses if reports are interpreted as encroaching on ‘state security’ issues.33 In a speech given in June 2008, Party General Hu Jintao stated that journalists should: “Promote the development and causes of the Party and the state [and their] first priority [is to] correctly guide public opinion.”34 Consequently, such measures often require journalists to blatantly censor, misreport and falsify information in order to walk the party line.

6.   Foreign Journalism in the TAR

The PRC tightly controls the movement of foreign journalists and reporters who face severe restrictions when operating within the TAR. Many are allowed access only through structured tours or government organized press visits where they can be appropriately monitored.35 Foreign journalists are routinely prevented from conducting interviews in sensitive provinces and are prohibited from reporting on issues relating to human rights, family planning, ethnic minorities, religion, or democratic ideas.36

The Foreign Correspondents Club of China (FCCC) called on the PRC to open the TAR to foreign journalists and respect proper journalistic practices after 50 incidents of harassment, ten death threats and six cases of detention when they tried to visit some of the more remote provinces in the TAR.37 Similarly, a study found that 86% of respondents stated that is was not possible to report accurate information in Tibet due to the level of control and monitoring by state authorities.38 Respondents had submitted some 35 applications to travel within the TAR and had only four approved; those that were approved received regular guidance from the Central Propaganda Department listing which topics could be covered and had mandatory security officials present at all times during interviews.39

Tibetans who were accused of speaking to foreign reporters or who attempted to relay any information to foreigners or organizations outside the country were subject to detention and criminal prosecution; failure to comply with such measures were punished depending upon the, “degree of harm to the nation.”40 Several known instances involved the case of Drakpa, a monk from Gyuto Monastery, who was arrested back in 2008 by the local Public Security Bureau for informing foreign correspondents about human rights abuses and Jigme Gyatso, from Labrang Monastery who was also arrested for giving a telephone interview to a foreign journalist.41 Furthermore, during 2009, 59 Tibetans were convicted of ‘creating and spreading rumors’ during the March 2008 protests.42 Aforementioned incidents were especially frequent in 2008, as authorities began cracking down on ‘subversive behavior’ using a wide berth of indictments to punish protestors that threatened stability.

In trying to keep dissenting or critical opinion from circulating abroad, authorities placed tight restrictions on citizens who were employed by foreign media organizations. Back in 2009 the state issued a code of conduct threatening dismissal for employees who engaged in any ‘independent reporting’ instructing them to provide, “information that projects a good image of the country”.43 The PRC purports an image of domestic solidarity and internal cohesion by painting a glossy picture to the international media, while continuing to use repressive measures to control movement, speech and expression all the while maintaining the illusion of control.

7.   Conclusion

The PRC has many methods of control at its disposal in which they use to restrict the freedom of information. By controlling journalists and news outlets they effectively are able to manipulate public discourse and control the spread of reactionary ideas. The CCP uses their highly intricate propaganda system to effectively control and monitor all forms of information across a variety of platforms, virtually eliminating dissents opinions within the media, filling the news space with ideals that reflect a narrow vision, one that conforms to the rigid dictates of party.

Footnotes:

1 2008 Uprising in Tibet: Chronology and Analysis. Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). 2010.

2 A Great Mountain Burned by Fire: China’s Crackdown in Tibet. International Campaign for Tibet. March 9, 2009.

3 2008 Uprising in Tibet: Chronology and Analysis. Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). 2010.

4 Human Rights Situation in Tibet. Annual Report 2009. Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). 2010.

5 “Ibid”

6 Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

7 Tibet’s achievements celebrated. Peoples Daily. March 28, 2011. http://english .peopledaily.com.cn/90001/90776/90882/7332537. html.

8 Dissenting Voices. Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). September 2010.

9 2008 Uprising in Tibet: Chronology and Analysis. Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). 2010.

10 “Ibid”

11 Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

12 “Ibid”

13 China’s vice president urges Tibetan monks to “stay clear from” separatist forces, July 20, 2011. Xinhua News Agency. http://news.xinhuanet.com/english2010/china/2011-07/20/c_13998087.htm.

14 Freedom of Information. Free Tibet Campaign. 2008-2009. www.freetibet.org /about/freedom-information.

15 Garnaut, John. China’s Plan to Use Internet for Propaganda. The Sydney Morning Herald. July 14, 2010. http://www.smh.com.au/technology/ technolog-news /chinas-plan-to-use-internet-for-propaganda-20100713-109hc.html.

16 “Ibid”

17 Freedom of Information. Free Tibet Campaign. 2008-2009. www.freetibet.org /about/freedom-information.

18 Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

19 Human Rights Situation in Tibet. Annual Report 2009. Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). 2010.

20 “Ibid”

21 A ‘Raging Storm,’ The crackdown on Tibetan writers and Artists after Tibet’s Spring 2008 Protests. International Campaign for Tibet. May 2010.

22 “Ibid”

23 Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China.. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

24 “Ibid”

25 “Ibid”

26 Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China.. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

27 “Ibid”

28 Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

29  “Ibid”

30  Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

31   Garnaut, John. China’s Plan to Use Internet for Propaganda. The Sydney Morning Herald. July 14, 2010. http://www.smh.com.au/technology/ technolog-news /chinas-plan-to-use-internet-for-propaganda-20100713-109hc.html.

32  “Ibid”

33  Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

34  Congressional Executive Commission on China (CECC). 2009. Annual Report 2009.

35 US State Department. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “US Department of State: 2010 Human Rights Report: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)”. 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. April 8, 2011

36 Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

37 2008 Uprising in Tibet: Chronology and Analysis. Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). 2010.

38 US State Department. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “US Department of State: 2010 Human Rights Report: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)”. 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. April 8, 2011.

39  US State Department. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “US Department of State: 2009 Human Rights Report: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)”. 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. March 11, 2010

40 Quinglin, He. The Fog of Censorship: Media Control in China. Human Rights in China (HRIC). 2008.

41 2008 Uprising in Tibet: Chronology and Analysis. Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR), Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). 2010.

42 US State Department. Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. “US Department of State: 2009 Human Rights Report: China (includes Tibet, Hong Kong, and Macau)”. 2010 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices. March 11, 2010

43 “Ibid”

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