by Yu Sun
- China -
The earthquake that struck Sichuan recently has shown China’s capacity to mobilize resources, cope with emergency situations and handle crisis. China conducted its own prompt media coverage and provided unprecedented access to foreign media on the quake-hit area. China has demonstrated its preparedness and ability to hold the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympic Games.
As the symbol of the Olympic spirit, the Olympic flame represents peace, friendship and global progress. And though the Olympic torch relay traveled through many countries under the authorization of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), sharing the passion and glory of the Olympics with the entire world, it was disrupted by pro-Tibet activists in some countries along the way and met with bias by some western media.
The So-Called Boycott Won’t Affect the Olympic Games
The Olympic flame does not belong to China, but to the whole world and carries a message of global peace. Disrupting the Olympic torch relay is not only contrary to the Olympic spirit, but endangers the personal safety of torchbearers and violates the rights of those who welcomed its arrival.
A few countries’ leaders have pondered not attending the opening ceremony of the 29th Olympic Games in Beijing. I’m amazed to read this kind of the news.
What is China going to lose from this possible boycott? After all, tens of thousands of athletes from different countries will still compete in Beijing, and that's what matters.
If a few countries want to boycott China, it’s they who will lose out. As former IOC Chairman Juan Antonio Samaranch commented, countries calling for a boycott are only punishing their own athletes. As for some politicians' absence from the opening ceremony, their possible gesture is essentially meaningless and has little influence. I believe these politicians will ultimately be remembered in Olympic history for their record of mixing political matters with sporting events.
Furthermore, this boycott is not based on an accurate understanding of Tibet. Tibet is an integral part of China and as such, the issue of Tibet is an internal affair.Before 1951, Tibet had long been a society of feudal serfdom under the political and religious rule of lamas. Since the founding of the Tibet Autonomous region, Tibet has witnessed significant progress, thanks to the policy of regional ethnic autonomy and the great financial input and support from the central Chinese government.
Figures released by the Chinese statistic bureau of the region show that in the past five years alone, the central government subsidized Tibet with 95 billion RMB Yuan ($13.6 billion USD). Before 1951 in Tibet, less than 2 percent of children went to school and the illiteracy rate among young and middle-aged adults was 95 percent. The current education policy allows urban students in Tibet to receive free nine-year compulsory education, and the illiteracy rate has subsequently dropped to 4.8 percent among young and middle-aged adults; the overall rate is now below 30 percent. And their cultural traditions and religious beliefs are well respected and preserved. Since 1980, the Chinese central government has allocated more than 700 million Yuan ($100 million USD) for the preservation of 1,400 monasteries and cultural relics in Tibet. Tibet has about 1,700 religious sites for Tibetan Buddhism that accommodate approximately 46,000 monks and nuns.
Media Coverage Should be Objective and Based on True Facts
Though we can all agree that media should play an objective and responsible role in reporting news events, some western media distorted its coverage of the recent riots in Lhasa.
What have been portrayed in the media as "peaceful demonstrations" in Lhasa have claimed thirteen innocent lives and caused property damage. According to Qiangba Puncog, chairman of Tibet Autonomous Regional Government, more than 300 locations, including residential houses, and more than 200 shops, were set on fire by rioters.
A CNN website picture showed people running in front of a military truck. The original picture uploaded by Chinese netizens, however, actually shows protestors throwing stones at and attacking the truck but that part was cropped out.
In a report on the Tibet riots, RTL news television in Germany used TV footage showing policemen with captured protestors, however, the policemen were actually Nepalese. The TV station later apologized for its error.Netizens in China criticized western media for intentionally neglecting to cover the cruelty of the rioters, revealing the hypocrisy of the "objectivity and fairness" they boasted as well as the double standard in its so-called support of human rights.
There have even been mass protests and demonstrations against torch relay disturbances and distorted western media coverage by Chinese living overseas, but these news events are neglected by most western media.
One reason for some of the poor coverage of China by western media is that they were not clear about the actual facts, and hadn’t conducted thorough enough investigations. Too many people outside China don’t know what really happened during the riots in Lhasa, and might have been further misled by these distorted media reports.
China and western media need more communication to foster understanding. Some western media should get to know more about China, and respect the facts. According to media reports, to let western media have access to the truth, CNN and some other western media were invited by China to cover the torch relay ascent to Mt. Everest in Tibet.
During the recent earthquake in Sichuan, more western media gave objective and positive coverage. As time passes, I hope more understanding between China and western media is established in the future. This understanding is both important and meaningful. It will foster understanding and friendship among the people of China and the western world, and enhance the trust between Chinese government leaders and their western counterparts.
About the Author
Yu Sun is the Chief Writer for China’s Environmental Protection magazine. Previously, Yu worked as reporter and editor for more than 12 years for China Environment News. Yu was awarded the United Nations Correspondents Association bronze prize for her coverage of the Kyoto climate conference and was also invited to speak at the International Investigative Journalism Conference held in Holland in 2005. She was selected as Person of the Week by Internews China after returning from the 2007 UN climate conference in Bali.
Yu was a 1998-1999 Nieman fellow at Harvard University, and 2003-2004 International Scholar at the Knight Center for Science Journalism at Boston University. Yu received her Bachelor’s degree in environmental sciences from China’s Jilin University in 1986 and a Master’s degree in natural resource management from Holland’s International Institute of Earth Sciences in 1997.