When Global Times first began publication I had hopes that it signaled the beginning of a process in China that could encourage an alternative view, other than that of the Chinese Government. Even though financed and controlled by the Chinese Communist Party, initial contents of the newspaper gave the indication that it would not be mere official propaganda mouthpiece. I have particularly been following its coverage of news relating to Tibet and sensed that it was making efforts to see the other side of the picture, too. Unfortunately, Global Times has now turned out to be just another old wine in a new bottle. I guess the winners in this are only those foreign and domestic consultants who have financially benefited from advising China into making Global Times a vehicle of its “soft power” outreach and then turning it into yet another propaganda machine. Global Times has failed its readers.
Just take the Global Times editorial today (April 18, 2011) headlined “Confrontation under religious auspices” relating to the developments at the Tibetan Buddhist monastery of Kirti in Amdo (located in Sichuan Province). (See ICT’s reports on the ongoing situation at Kirti Monastery here, here and here.) Rather than looking at the complexity of the developments that led to unrest in the monastery, which includes a self-immolation by a monk there, the editorial merely puts the issue as being “The Chinese police intervened to control lamas that had stirred up trouble.” How convenient and shallow it is to describe Chinese security forces’ virtual transformation of the historical monastery into a prison and the clampdown that continues as I write this. Of course, if there is trouble and that trouble is caused by illegal activities then the Chinese police have the right to intervene, is the thought process that the newspaper would like its readers to have.
That is the stream of justification in the rest of the story.
The first sentence of this news report seems to indicate that it has been provoked by His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s message issued on April 15, 2011 regarding the situation in Kirti Monastery. I really wonder whether the individuals who were tasked with writing the editorial have seen the entire text of the Dalai Lama’s message. This is because his message only advises the monastic community and the people there to exercise restraint, saying “I urge both the monks and the lay Tibetans of the area not to do anything that might be used as a pretext by the local authorities to massively crackdown on them.” Secondly, His Holiness called on the international community “to persuade the Chinese leadership to exercise restraint in handling this situation.”
Maybe the following sentence in the Dalai Lama’s message struck a nerve: “For the past six decades, using force as the principle means in dealing with the problems in Tibet has only deepened the grievances and resentment of the Tibetan people. I, therefore, appeal to the Chinese leadership to adopt a realistic approach and to address the genuine grievances of the Tibetans with courage and wisdom and to restrain from using force in handling this situation.”
For all its political claim over Tibet, the various actions by the Chinese authorities indicate that they treat Tibetan religion and culture as something “foreign” and not worthy of respect and reverence. China has no qualms in seeking recourse for “hurting the sentiments of the Chinese people” when foreigners indulge in actions that may impinge on the PRC’s interest. But when it comes to respecting the religious sentiments of the Tibetan people, Chinese security forces can throw caution to the wind, enter religious institutions on a whim and hold hostage the entire monastic community denying them even food and water, without even appearing to investigate the issue first.
Rather than recognizing the international community’s concern as an indication of China’s increasing global role that comes with the expectation of global responsibility, the editorial puts its foot in its mouth by saying: “The troublemakers and their foreign supporters must be aware that the involvement of religious people in secular politics is not welcome.” Pray, are they talking about the man they have selected as the Panchen Lama or what? Maybe we should refresh Global Times’ memory by drawing its attention to its March 1, 2010 issue, which had a story that said, “The 11th Panchen Lama Bainqen Erdini Qoigyijabu was among 13 people who on Sunday became new members of the National Committee of the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC), the country’s top advisory body.”
Global Times then simplifies the Tibetan issue by saying, “Every problem in Tibet is caused by a few lamas, who have betrayed and stained the Buddhist concept of peace. However, they seem to have forgotten that they are still citizens of the People’s Republic of China. The law will not make concessions to them.”
Actually, actions like the one that is going on at Kirti Tibetan Buddhist monastery are clear proof that the Chinese authorities do not seem to regard the Tibetan people as being equal citizens of the People’s Republic of China. While keeping aside the condescending reference to “concessions” or even distorting the name of the monastery by calling it “Aba Gulden Temple,” Global Times should see if Tibetans really enjoy the rights guaranteed to them by China’s own Constitution and the Law on Regional National Autonomy.