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Struggling to report on Tibetans

This is an interesting time to be a foreign correspondent in China. Like dozens of colleagues, I am near the border with Tibet but unable to get in.

I happen to be in Sichuan province. And I’ve been in contact with colleagues who I know are in Gansu and Qinghai provinces, all trying to get a feel for what’s going on among ethnic Tibetans.

It is not easy. We are face some measure of difficulty, trying to outsmart Chinese provincial authorities who would just as soon muzzle the foreign press at times like this.

None of us can enter Tibet, which is off limits to foreign reporters without a permit. I know of only one foreign journalist, James Miles of The Economist, who had the good fortune to be in Lhasa as events unfolded over the past few days.

So the rest of us spread out to neighboring provinces. There are 2.9 million Tibetans living in what is known as the Tibetan Autonomous Region, or for simplicity’s sake Tibet. But a couple million more dwell in adjacent provinces, often living near other minorities or the majority Han Chinese. I’m now in a city with a majority Tibetan population, although I won’t say which one it is.

We foreign reporters all take precautions. We have to switch vehicles often. Some of us swap out SIM cards in our mobile phones, or just turn them off. That way, authorities cannot triangulate mobile phone signals and figure out our locations.

None of us are doing anything illegal. It’s just that it’s very easy for officials in the hinterlands to stop us and ask endless questions, creating delays, or simply bar us from entering areas for unspecified security reasons.

Earlier today, I saw probably 100 or more military trucks on a highway heading to Tibet. I have no idea what they were carrying or if it was a routine caravan. It’s all part of the riddle of trying to decipher what is happening, and what will happen, in Tibet.

I may get stopped in the next 24 hours. But I’ll do my best to wriggle out of it.


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Xenon HID

Thank you for this post.The PRC brings all of the doubt and mis-trust upon themselves - secretiveness has a way of doing that.

Xenon HID

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Teo Chun

I think that in every situation there is a good and bad for all things. The trick is not to take things or situation to the extreme like the reaction from "mainlander". Reporters and journalists are good because of the news they bring to the people. The news may be propaganda or truth and it is the responsibility of the reader to do their own research and judgement on the matter. Mainlander says for reporters to get out of his land (which i will assume is China) then says he is from Indonesia; which country is "his" land we would not know, but if he/she is not happy with anything western or even about what reporters has to say, then why is the person even writing and reading this article or even using a computer because these things are western technology. Strange people in the world today, but i guess that is why there are so many anomaly happening.


On a side note. China didn't swallow parts of Mongolia; it actually had all of it threw up parts of it in 1911 when some parts of Mongolia declared independence after the fall of the Qing Dynasty. But the main point is, if every groups of people deserve their own "country" because of slight differences; the United States would be a messed up place.

People who call for "peace" and "love" often want nations to split up; but in the long run doesn't this create more tension? We should teach people to get along; and segregation NEVER taught anyone to get along, that's called the game of avoidance.

Every nation was given a chance to decide its own path. Why do we people in western nations increasing try to mingle in the affairs of others. Does it make us happier to see people split? Does it make us happier to see families torn apart because of borders? I'm not talking only about Tibet, I'm talking about the whole region. Taiwan, NoKo and SoKo...why?

Time will do its job.


China allways had a thing for big things. Yet swallowing Tibet, parts of Mongolia , the Uighurnations etc. could lead to severe digestive problems. These are and were very fierce nations, which have been pacified somewhat through buddhism. If they really turned violent, than those who ask for bloodshed could get more than they asked for. You can find chinese people all over the world.


Ugly, stupid China is not welcome in London. There will just be lots of public urination and spitting...and lots of pant legs rolled up.


James Renault, this BBC arse hole, Jane McCartney, this bitch from Times etc...The former is particularly provocative, with his cocky commentaries, sneeky presentations~gosh, I just can't stand this beast. Where is China's Ministry of Informations in charge of foreign journalist? Bundle this guy & kick him back to his native UK, qiuckly, please! BTW, all Chinese & our allies, boycott London 2012!


This guy looks like a clown...

Georgey Porgey,
Pudding and pie,
Turned his back on the Tibetans and let them die...

And that goes for wet noodle Brussesl, beer sucking London and passed-out-drunk Oz as well.

Perhaps the first real sign of the The End of Times is that all of mankind's institutions built to promote and protect the preciousness of human life have simultaneously failed. The UN, the IOC, DC, Brussels, the US media as a whole, etc

Gau Si Guan

Dear Mr. Johnson:

I hope you will not end up doing what a reporter called Benjamin Joffe-Walt did.

Here is a link:



Kudos and best wishes to any foreign reporters that are willing to put their lives in the hands of a foreign government...especially one as 'squirelly' as China's.

The PRC brings all of the doubt and mis-trust upon themselves - secretiveness has a way of doing that. If they have nothing to hide then why not let reporters in? Better yet let's ask the Tibetans whether we can send reporters in... anyone know the phone number for India?


The following is copied from BBC website. Read it use your brain:

(1) Tibet was a country before 13 century. Oh, My ...! 2000 thousands years ago, there were about a dozen small counties in China too.

(2) British Colonel want to seize it from China in early 1900. Shame on you, British. And I am glad that you failed.

During Tibet's early history it was an independent and often powerful state, but from the 13th century, when it submitted to Mongol rule, until modern times, it has endured long periods of either Chinese control, Chinese influence, or effective autonomy.

In 1904 British Colonel Francis Younghusband led a mission to seize Lhasa and attempt to exclude other foreign powers' influence over Tibet.

But in 1907 Britain and Russia agreed that both parties would deal with Tibet only through China, and China enforced what it saw as its claim on Tibet through a military invasion in 1910


Nh, have you jerked off yet? Go find a girl.

Anti-Han, anti-Japanese or anti-western, anti-XXX... If it turns violent it needs to be crushed without mercy.


Also, try to find find out how Tibet looks like 50 years ago. Were people really free at that time? (To give ya a clue, have you ever heard of the word "slaves").


I have lived in North america for 10 years. But from the images I saw, those are pro-independence protester? No, they look like highschool dropouts.


Outsmart government?

You think you are in the States?

Whenever you go on a trip, try to be a lawful as possible.

By the way, while you are in China, try get a sense of how many chinese, who have no relation whatsoever with America, have prayed for Americans on 9/11. Then, people will be able to behave a little more human.


The Tibetans are protesting against the PRC Govt that has (and still does) mobbed, robbed, and killed its own Chinese-Han people. The argument that Tibetan peasants are better off under PRC Govt is also stupid b/c those Chinese-Han peasants & laborers who spoke out are now under house arrest.

Patriotism has "idiofied" some people and made them unable to distinguish a government from a people. sorry for them.


Maybe what China ought to do is to call this an "insurgency" and then have Americans retained to deal with the problem using the same methods that work in Iraq.

They wouldn't come out? No problem, just have an F-16 drop a bomb.... or a Predator fire a missile.

Marvin Foushee

Marching in a parade without a permit. Boring...even by Western hippie standards.


>> nanheyangrouchuan

"We know that there is no greater crime in the world than engaging in an "anti-Han" activity. But anti-Japanese, anti-American and anti-west activities are perfectly acceptable."

They didn't say protest was wrong or unacceptable. However, when "peaceful" protesters turning mobbish and riotous, which led to killings of innocent people from other ethnic groups, that was unacceptable. Rather unacceptable, those criminals should be put behind bars and social order should be restored with no hesitation.


We know that there is no greater crime in the world than engaging in an "anti-Han" activity. But anti-Japanese, anti-American and anti-west activities are perfectly acceptable.

One thing that can be said for China is that it is an unapologetic monster, but how about our corporations and political leaders who have turned their backs in Tibet in favor of corporate interests and the Genocide Olympics?

China must be permanently deconstructed and MNC executives be relentlessly flogged.




Glad you're safe from the authorities. A lot of people forget that the force that gives an uprising or a riot its power is support.

I think the Chinese government wants to limit exposure just because they don't want the rioters to gain support or unnecessary exposure. The more support you have; the less likely you will desist. You can't let your fans down.

I can't say that thats the best reasoning or the best method to make the rioters desist. But I don't think the Chinese government has anything to hide. If they wanted to kill Tibetan protesters; I think Google maps would have already gotten a snap shot.

Every issue starts off small until everyone starts playing telephone.

Nice try though with the news scoop; I'd like to know what's going on too.


Hello Bill,

I do think it's rather stupid to block all the foreign reporters from Lhasa, because I am sure there is nothing to hide from the outside of the world. What the authority's been afraid of is biased report from main western media like CNN and BBC.

I've seen the pictures taken by Kadfly, one of the Canadian tourists trapped in Lhasa during these days. Both the BBC and the CNN used his pictures and videos of his Italian friend to show the world what's going on in Lhasa right now. Then you know what's happened? These so called free media manipulated the pictures to insinuate what they'd like their audience to see rather than the real situation. They cut the pictures apart and took scenes they liked and hid those they didn't. And the biased reports are still going on repeatedly everyday.

Here is the Kadfly's blog; you can go read what he had to say.



"Smash China…." Stop masturbating, nh, jerk off already!

Liar Liar

The tibetian mob are fighting with Chinese troops, and they are called by western media: Freedom Fighter. At the same time, on the other side of the earth, the Serbian mob are fighting with NATO troops in Kosovo, and they are called by western media: Radicals. Wah, the western media is so FAIR and UNBIASED!


This is pure & simple pogroms against Han, Hui & other ethnic Chinese right on our own soil! I am from Indonesia & had experienced the savaged & barbaric pogroms perpetrated by the Indonesians in 1998. As such, I would like to urge the Chinese security forces not to show any mercy & shoot the hell out of these savages like dogs! Also, if these white bitches/animals would like to stir & stoke these savages, kill them as well. I really hate these hypocrites from the west~they commit the greatest crimes against humanity throughout history & yet now pretend to be samaritans hard selling their brand of evils (freedom, human rights etc), by force if neccersary like what they did in Iraq, Afghanistan. These CNN, BBC, etc are beaming totally one-sided footages insinuating the Chinese are all evil shamelessly on their feeds. Let's boycott all western correspondants in China from now on & don't afford them any conveniences/helps while in China!


Dear AB
"How about making a case with the Central Government?"
That was drop-dead funny.


You are not welcome to do your so-called report & please piss off from our land. Reading all these craps from CNN,BBC,Times, Guardians etc, I am pretty sure the west (typified by reporters like you bunch of idiots) has no wish to be fair & professional as far as China is concerned. You guys are already self consumed on your own propaganda to uphold the minimum professional press ethic. You can yell the hell out of your voice while we stick vehemently to our own point of view. There is simply nothing to dialogue over this matter. Honestly, I think the Tibetans should be shot & you guys should be kicked out from our blessed land!


Seeing as how the Tibetan freedom fighters are now rising up in sichuan and gansu, there should be plenty of stories to check out around Tibet. And the knowledge of foreigners reporting their struggles may give them a second wind.

Smash badirty China into polluted little bits!


Good luck getting in! I hope you are able to get through and report on what is going on.



I advise entering Tibet from Yunnan instead of Sichuan. You'll encounter fewer military sentries and it's easier to find westbound transportation on the smaller back roads. Go as far south as possible, then proceed west. Good luck!


"Give you reasonable lawful access to Tibet and you promise to report fairly, honestly, and with integrity."

That's probably what the Chinese government is afraid of.


What does the Chinese government has to hide, blocking all entrance by journalists into Tibet ? That should be a good story.


Excuse me....

Instead of trying to "outsmart" the Provincial authorities... have you considered the alternatives?

How about making a case with the Central Government that goes something like this....

Give you reasonable lawful access to Tibet and you promise to report fairly, honestly, and with integrity.

Lay down some ground rules that preserve your freedom of the press, but also ensure that the Chinese side of the story is fairly heard.

Since everyone else have tried to outsmart them.... why not give this method a try?


Dear Dailai Lama:

You say you are a man of peace. I believe you.

If you are a man of peace, then you must take it upon yourself to do whatever it takes to stop the violence that is now raging in your homeland.

You say you are powerless to do so. That is not true. You do have influence, not only outside, but inside of Tibet and other parts of China.

Once upon a time, Mohandas K. Gandhi faced a similar situation when violence broke out between Hindus and Muslims over the partitioning of India .

Mr. Gandhi went on a fast until the violence subsided. In the end, his vision won.

It would greatly enhance your credibility if you were to consider doing the utmost to stop the violence.

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"China Rises" is written by Tom Lasseter, the Beijing bureau chief for McClatchy Newspapers.

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