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US Steps Up Broadcasts & Telecasts to Tibet

Western Governments have come under contradictory pressures in relation to their response to the uprising of the Tibetans since March 10,2008. While growing sections of public opinion and human rights activists have been demanding a boycott of the Olympic Games similar to the boycott of Moscow Olympics in 1980, Western business companies, who have heavily invested in China, continue to be strongly opposed to any boycott.

2. The movement for a boycott has received the strongest public support in France. Mr.Bernard Kouchner, the French Foreign Minister, has stated that even if the Western Governments are not prepared to call for a boycott of the Games by their national Olympic Committees, their leaders should at least refrain from participating in the opening ceremony. Amongst those who had announced last year their intention to participate is President George Bush of the US. Other Western Governments have not so far supported the suggestion of Mr.Kouchner.

3. Western human rights organisations have demanded that China should allow an international observer team to visit Tibet and Sichuan to enquire into the incidents and that an international team of lawyers should be allowed to defend the Tibetans being rounded up by the Chinese authorities. If the Chinese authorities reject these demands, the demand for a boycott of the opening ceremony may gather momentum.

4. In the meanwhile, the US authorities are reported to have taken action to strengthen the transmitting power of Radio Free Asia (RFA) and the Voice of America (VOA) in order to enable their broadcasts to overcome the jamming by the Chinese authorities. They have also announced an increase in their hours of broadcasts and telecasts to the Tibetan people with effect from March 18,2008.

5. Mr.James K.Glassman, the Chairman of the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), which is an independent federal agency which supervises all U.S. government-supported, non-military international broadcasting, announced on March 18,2008, as follows: “The violent crackdown by Chinese authorities in Tibet compels us to increase our broadcasts.Our audience clearly will benefit from these trustworthy sources of news and information, which differ sharply from Chinese government sanctioned broadcasts.”

6. At present, RFA broadcasts eight hours daily to Tibet via shortwave radio. The VOA broadcasts four hours daily, also via shortwave. With effect from March 18, each has expanded its respective radio programmes by two additional hours daily. The VOA will also double its weekly Tibetan-language television programming from one to two hours via the AsiaSat 3 satellite.

7. Mr.Libby Liu, President of the RFA, said on March 18,2008: “RFA’s Tibetan service is working round the clock to bring authoritative, breaking news to the Tibetan people. These additional hours will greatly enhance our capacity to deliver this news, including live updates, to people on the ground.”

8. Lhasa and other areas of Tibet continue to be tense, but without any violent incidents since March 17,2008. Chinese troops on foot and in armoured personal carriers continue to patrol the streets and the Chinese authorities have continued to surround all the monasteries, keeping the monks under virtual house arrest and preventing any interactions between them and the general population.

9. Chinese troops and People’s Armed Police (PAP) personnel continue to make house-to-house searches for suspected participants in the violent uprising of March 14,2008. The total number of persons detained for questioning so far has gone up to 300. The Chinese authorities have claimed that 105 self-confessed participants in the uprising have voluntarily surrendered to the authorities.

10. Sporadic incidents of violence continue to be reported from the Tibetan majority areas of the Sichuan province. Many of the Hans, whose shops in Lhasa were attacked by the Tibetan demonstrators on March 14,2008, were settlers from Sichuan. In retaliation for this, there have reportedly been attacks on Tibetans by Hans in Sichuan. According to Tibetan refugee sources, the Chinese military also opened fire on a large group of Tibetans demonstrating against the Government in the Aba County of the Sichuan province. According to other independent sources, there have also been sporadic incidents of stabbing in the Tibetan areas of Chengdu, the capital of Sichuan. Tibetan exile groups have managed to obtain photographs of the Tibetans allegedly killed by the Chinese security forces in the Aba county and have been disseminating them through the Internet. (19-3-08)

(The writer, Mr.B.Raman, is Additional Secretary (retd), Cabinet Secretariat, Govt. of India, New Delhi, and, presently, Director, Institute For Topical Studies, Chennai. He is also associated with the Chennai Centre For China Studies. E-mail: )

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