Tibetans ran riot in Lhasa on March 10. The otherwise idyllic ancient city, famous for its magnificent tourist attraction - the Potala Palace, turns suddenly to bedlam. Chaotic scenes, much like a ravaged war zone, created by the sheer madness of the mobs became a global focus. This was not a movie scene of "Wild Wild West" ala Chinese. This was real. There were no signs of it coming beforehand. Unbelievably, it just happened; things erupted ferociously out of control.|
But this incident revealed more than China's internal problem. It has also revealed the kind of mentality that the western media possess towards China.
Large crowds of mainly young Tibetans under the roll call of the 'monks', rampaged through the city committing atrocious acts of vandalism, arson, pillage and even killings. In a very short space of time, Lhasa was plunged into a complete state of anarchy. The city was effectively in crisis. 'Monks' were shown in news footages riding motorcycles like 'mat rempit' gesturing to the charged up mobs - some were standing by as if supervising, some were knocking on signboards with rocks and some even ran amok together with the crowds.
The appearance of 'monks' offers a slight reminder of a similar protest in Burma, not long ago. The only difference was the monks in Lhasa was a lot more 'active' and 'fiercer'.
Testimonies by foreign tourists, emerged days ofter the riots, gave similar accounts of what happened. They described how throngs of 'howling mobs' terrorise the city by damaging properties, looting shops, burning and overturning vehicles, beating and killing passers-by.
"They were howling like wolves... They started attacking anything and anyone that looked Chinese" - Claude Balsiger, a 25-year-old Swiss backpacker in Lhasa.
The disturbance also spread to neighbouring provinces with large Tibetan community. They set fire to Chinese busineses and stormed government buildings. The police were also the target of attacks. And yes, they howls all the same.
These are not 'peaceful demonstrations' as purported by certain parties. These are clearly a form of violence.
It was indeed shocking but to many Asian countries which enjoys the privilege of having alternative news reporting from the local and regional as well as from China and western news agencies, it was even more shocking to see, in disbelief, at the reactions mainly from western countries in which the government was blamed and that Chinese victims were ignored, altogether!
Two days of rioting which had severely threatens social security has prompted the authority to take measures to control the situation and prevent civil disorder from escalating further. About 170 rioters have surrendered to the authority for leniency while 24 others were arrested so far. The situation in Lhasa has returned to normal as quickly as it had started.
Sporadic attacks in neighbouring provinces, however, are still occuring. But all is expected to come to rest real soon as security crackdowns are underway to quell further unrest in the region. Troops are on standby, ready to be deployed anytime when needed.
Controversy which surrounds the approach in the clamping down of violence become keypoints in western media and to Tibetan activists and rights groups to denounce the authority. No fatal mishandling of rioters were confirmed although 'self-defence' of the police were reportedly to have wounded four. Western antipathy towards the Chinese authority was founded in the blame that the police used force while most in Asia think they were not using enough force to contain the violence which resulted in the loss of control.
The atmosphere will remain tense in months to come as the upcoming Olympic Games is likely to fuel attempts by the extremists to gain global attention to their radical political cause.
Amidst the rioting that broke out in Lhasa, western media gave overwhelming prominence to voices seemingly sympathetic to the Tibetans and those of pro-Tibet while the plight of ethnic Hans who were the real victims in this attacks was appallingly neglected. Interviews with victims, some lying in beds covered with wounds, and eye witnesses were not shown and accounts by parents of burnt victims were simply not present in their reporting.
Why were the Tibetans favoured over the Hans? Is it because the Tibetans are more pitiful? Why weren't the non-aggressor Hans been given equal amount of coverage in their reporting? Is it because it's ok to attack the Hans? Who are the real victims in this riot? The Tibetans or the Hans? After a while, you will begin to see what it was all about.
The reason is because they want to make a point. It is not about the 'rioting'. Riot is not the main point in this issue. It is about giving the separatist Tibetans a chance and platform to voice their political struggle. It is about capitalizing on the momentum of the event to market and publicise anti-China sentiment to a potentially large audience. Then it all makes sense!
Western media are keen to present their side's of the story to Chinese viewers. But their accounts and reporting are depressingly bias. They were not showing the desired quality of being neutral, independent and impartial. Yet, they riled at the Chinese censorship whenever their transmissions are being blacked out and web access to their sites are blocked. Isn't it a manifestation of bigotry? It works both ways, gentlemen. If accounts from the Chinese side are not reported or are not getting a balanced reporting in foreign news and networks, so can the Chinese to disallow foreign media's one-sided accounts be shown and made available on their side. If the Chinese do not get fair treatment, naturally, the other side won't get it either. Isn't that how things work? Western media were mounting aggressive, unfair and insidious propaganda. The Chinese, which has no equal means of countering the attacks, are entitled the right to protect themselves from the media onslaught.
Western governments and political figures are also doing great disservice, not only to the Chinese people but also the people of the world, by making distortion of the truth.
"We urge China to respect the fundamental and universally recognised right of all of its citizens to peacefully express their political and religious views, and we call on China to release monks and others who have been detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views." - Condoleeza Rice, US Secretary of State.
To anyone's chagrin, 'violent protesters' are being portrayed as 'peaceful demonstrators'. That statement isn't 'solely' for the 'peaceful expression' of the 'monks' and Tibetan 'demonstrators'. It is solely to paint a negative picture of the Chinese authority as the aggressor.
European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering said political leaders would 'reconsider' attending the opening ceremony if the "repression" continued. This was a sinister comment which insinuates a perceived wrong on the part of the Chinese government. In other words, Chinese authority is not allowed to suppress the madness. Let the mobs burn, vandalise, loot and kill. If they stop the mobs from 'expressing' their insanity, the move will be labelled as 'repression'! Rioting and killing are not brutal. Stopping riot and killing is brutal.
In that sense, almost every countries are guilty of 'repression': Thailand repressed its restive south, Indonesia repressed Acheh, Turkey and Iraq repressed Kurds, India repressed Kashmir, Spain repressed Basques, France repressed Arab-Parisian youths... etc. So, the next time Mr. Poettering sees riots and disturbances in those places, he may want to express his concern about 'repression' in those 'free' countries. Will he not?
Rights groups are equally hypocritical on this issue. Is violence human rights? Is killing human rights?
It is futile to placate the implacable. But this incident reveals a residue of Cold War mentality in the west. Those who commits vandalism and arson are not demonstrators but 'anarchists'. And those who kills civilians are not civilians themselves but 'terrorists'. Western governments demands that Chinese government exercise 'restraint' towards 'anarchists' and 'terrorists'. How kanasai.
[end of part 1]