March 17, 2008

China Attempts to Censor News of Tibetan Protests

More evidence of the Chinese government's attempt to squelch protests regarding Tibet arose on Sunday when many users in the communist territory were blocked from viewing videos on YouTube.

The blackout began in response to many dissenting videos that began popping up on the video-sharing site on Saturday, just one day after public protests against Chinese rule erupted in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

The videos contained footage from foreign news agencies that were reporting on the demonstrations in Lhasa.

China has at least 210 million Internet users. Those who attempted to visit YouTube were confronted with a blank screen.

China, has ruled the predominantly Buddhist Himalayan region of Tibet since 1950.

The Chinese government habitually censors its news, but generally has less control over online media. As many of those in the blog community continue to rapidly add to the online debate, their task becomes increasingly tougher.

Many Chinese blogs resounded with nationalistic sentiments after China confirmed the deaths in the Tibetan capital.

"If you behave well, we'll protect your culture and benefits," one blogger wrote, referring to Tibetans in China.

"If you behave badly, we'll still take care of your culture ... by putting it in a museum. I believe in the Han (Chinese) people!"

After news of the Tibetan deaths reached the international community, actor Richard Gere called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics, which are set to kickoff in less than six months.

Many Chinese bloggers respond to the Western response as a result of being "brainwashed."

"Westerners think they know all about China, telling us that this, that and the other is bad," wrote one blogger

Others attempted to cast blame on the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, for inciting the riots.

"Simple monks, simple Tibetans, do they even know what is the driving force behind the push for independence?" said one blog.

"I think that the Chinese government has to cut this cancer out," wrote another blogger, surnamed Song. "We can start with the Dalai Lama, and even though we don't have relations with the Dalai Lama, we should arrest those who are behind the riots."

Still, there was a minority whose views appeared to disagree with China's treatment of Tibet.

"I'm not some big Stalinist, and I don't share the view that Tibet is part of China. Every minority has the right to choose its own path of development," one blogger said, who claimed to have lived in Tibet for four years.