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China Letter-News and Human Rights

China human rights news with focus on the Uygur of Xinjiang, Tibetans and Tibet, Chinese mining workers, religion, corruption and censorship.

Monday, May 17, 2004

Dalai Lama's World Trips Stirring up The Anthill?

Tibet MapI have commented before as to the predictability of the Chinese when it comes to any international press on sensitive issues.

Without fail the likes of Xinhua, China Daily and People's Daily will start coming out with what I call "justification pieces" It is happening again.

Tibet has been in the international news of late, Tibetan hunger strikers in New York, wildly successful visits of the Dalai Lama to various countries, US Religious freedom reports, United Nations Human Rights Commission hearings et al. So it is not surprising that the organs of state news have been dong what they tend to do quite well, pumping out the "justification pieces"

Of late we have had several articles on Tibet; articles on blind schools, cataract prevention, and infrastructure provision . We have even had, if you can believe it, a story about how well the 900 prisoners in Tibet jails enjoyed their Tibetan New Year celebrations. Apparently they all enjoyed a thrilling game of soccer.

Today we have a piece from the China Daily trumpeting the improvements of life in Tibet.

China's Tibet Autonomous Region has made great strides forward in both providing basic public services and in poverty reduction.

The article goes on to say

Basic public services enjoyed by Tibet's farmers and herdsmen are the best examples of government efforts to give the region's people a better life, according to the findings of a Chinese Academy of Social Sciences research team, who investigated the situation in July and August of last year.

The China Daily provides an impressive list of achievements

  • food security in the region has been further improved by the agricultural and pastoral support system.
  • The central government has invested an annual sum of 300 million yuan (US$36 million) in infrastructure projects for developing the agricultural and pastoral areas in Tibet in recent years.
  • The central government has scrapped taxes levied on Tibet's farmers and herdsmen.
  • Free compulsory education
  • Government-assisted health care insurance
  • Relief programmes and aid to the old and those without children:
  • Upgrading of power and water supply facilities
  • Satellite television and telecommunication services:
  • More non-farming jobs have been created to increase local people's incomes

Then we have the catchall

Compared with other parts of China, Tibet is the most eye-catching region of the country, and the State Council has issued more White Papers on Tibet than any other regions. Public attention thus has become an effective supervisory force. Transparency has been enhanced through the further disclosure of information.

Please do not get me wrong, there are some good things happening in Tibet as a result of China's involvement, even the Dalai Lama acknowledges that, but the bad things continue as well and we should not be blinded to that by nice "wrapping paper".

My point in this post is that the casual observer of China should be aware that when we get a plethora of "good spin" news such as the articles I have alluded to it is either 1)as a result of bad press elsewhere in the world or 2) in anticipation of bad press or 3) a lead in to changes the Government is about to implement that may get bad press.

I am no mathematician but the following quote appears to give the impression that as a result of Chinese initiatives Tibet's ethnic population is improving dramatically.

As living conditions improve, the population will increase too. The population of the Tibetan ethnic group in the Tibet Autonomous Region have increased from 1,718,238 in 1980 to 2,421,856 in 2000.

This is way less than the percentage increase in the Uygur population, for example, over the same period. Of course it does not provide numbers for those leaving Tibet, either as refugees or to China proper in search of work. Nonetheless the figures and the context do not equal the real relative position of population increases.