Foreign Journalists to Tour Tibet, but Information Still Blocked

Despite government plans to host a select group of foreign journalists on a tour of riot-hit regions of Tibet, observers of the current unrest are finding it harder and harder to access information from inside China about the situation. From the Financial Times:

…Following the military clampdown and the exclusion of foreign media from Tibet last week, e-mails and phone calls have been going unanswered, leaving an information blackout as Chinese forces reputedly continue to arrest Tibetan demonstrators.

The India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has estimated that at least 70 Tibetans were killedin rioting in Lhasa and protests in other parts of western China. The estimate – more than three times the 22 people that Beijing says were killed – has been based on phone calls, reports and photographs from the region.

Finding out what is happening on the ground is almost impossible, says Urgen Tenzin, the centre’s executive director. Even if phone calls to Tibet are answered, “people are saying, ‘Don’t call. It’s too dangerous,'” he said.

Meanwhile, foreign (and domestic) journalists trying to report independently on the ground are still blocked. The New York Times reports from (the article includes a video segment):

From this city of 10 million people in the middle of China, all roads leading west have been closed — except to convoys carrying soldiers and riot police officers to subdue Tibetan antigovernment protests. Chengdu has always been a gateway to the remote Tibetan plateau, but now it feels like a border outpost, tense and anxious, at the eastern edge of what several Tibetans here described as a war.

If it is a war, it is one the outside world cannot see. Police roadblocks have closed off a mountainous region about the size of France, spanning parts of the provinces of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai. Foreign journalists trying to investigate reports of bloodshed are turned away or detained. Even in big cities like Chengdu, Tibetans say they are wary of police retaliation. They pass along secondhand accounts of clashes mostly on condition that their names will not appear in print.

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