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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

The Jackpot Olympics: the Torch in Tibet

June 23, 2008

By Maura Moynihan
June 22, 2008

On June 21st, the Blood Torch appeared in Lhasa. It was a predictably
grim propaganda exercise, with dancing maidens, grinning nomads and
unctuous PRC officials waving for the cameras. The select
international reporters on hand witnessed a perverse celebration
China's Tibet, a stubborn relic of the Cultural Revolution where
party bosses flaunt their military muscle as they spit hateful
denunciations of the Dalai Lama. Flanked by banners heralding "Great
ethnic unity" and "Bless the motherland, joyfully greet the
Olympics", Tibet's Communist Chief Zhang Qingli stood before
pre-selected civilians and tens of thousands of PLA shock troops,
proclaiming "Tibet's sky will never change and the red flag with five
stars will forever flutter high above it" and "We will certainly be
able to totally smash the splittist schemes of the Dalai Lama clique."

The foreign correspondents were impressed, with the psychotic
language, the massive militarization and the total absence of
authentic Tibetan culture or street life. Video dispatches from the
torch ceremony depict a chilling display of mobilization, fleets of
armored vehicles rumbling past shuttered shops and deserted streets,
with sardonic commentary about the extreme security measures for
reporters, to "ensure the safety of guests". As Beijing labors to
suppress and control all information about the harsh reality of life
in occupied Tibet, it is useful to have a few reporters witness the
blunt force of China's police state, as the Summer Olympics draw near.

The Games were to be the baptism of China's global ascendancy, as
host to the supreme idyll of the free world. But the torrent of
outrage that drowned the Blood Torch tossed an arrow into the heart
of the Politboro - the Tibet crisis -inducing a xenophobic frenzy.
China is bracing for a fight with the twin turbines of the global
sports economy; tourism and media. For good reason; it was travelers
bearing cameras who exposed China's cruel treatment of the Tibetan
people when Tibet was pried open in the 1980's. Beijing has clamped
down on visas, travel permits and contracts.

Journalists who tried to cover Tibet received death threats and hate
mail, prompting editors to warn field staff to steer clear of Lhasa.
On June 1st, 08, the Beijing Olympic Committee abruptly revoked its
2007 agreements to allow "complete freedom" to all media, infuriating
the 12 international television networks who paid millions to cover
the Olympic Games. No live coverage from Tiananmen Square, no
man-in-the-street interviews without a security official hovering
near. An English phrasebook for the domestic security personnel
contains a chapter entitled "How to Stop Illegal News Coverage" with
sample dialogue of a policeman confiscating a camera and escorting a
reporter to the police station for questioning. It does not post
guidelines, at least, not in English, for silencing a local reporter
or source with a beating or jail sentence.

The strategic planning team at Hill & Knowlton, the New York PR firm
assigned to clean up Beijing's Olympic image, got an easy pass when
the earthquake struck Sichuan on May 12th,.; The IOC and their
corporate sponsors lauded China's the swift mobilization into the
quake zone, fostering a virtual blackout of all reporting and
discussion of Tibet. One hears of classified memos floating around
Hill & Knowlton, offering suggestions on how to spin the next Tibet
blow-up, with talking points about sports and world peace. The
corporate sponsor spin is straightforward, if crass; Herbert Hainer
of Adidas, an Olympic sponsor, said in a recent press conference;
"The Chinese market is a very big one for us and it will shortly be
the second-biggest market in the world for us, after the US market.
But once again, this is not the reason why we didn't speak up on the
Tibet conflict."

The strenuous passage of the Blood Torch through Tibet offered a
glimpse of the extreme militarism that China is preparing for the
Olympic Games. Should the Tibet crisis explodes in August, tens of
thousands of reporters and tourists and athletes will bear witness.
But it's too late for China to cancel the match, the world has
already paid for a front row seat.

The views expressed in this piece are that of the author and the
publication of the piece on this website does not necessarily reflect
their endorsement by the website.
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