Free Tibet! Free the media!

Stuart Brand is credited with saying “Information wants to be free”: Today we are seeing the internet work its magic in Tibet. Despite the fact that China is “blocking YouTube, CNN and the BBC”: images and videos from the riots in Tibet are “still seeping out”: to the web.

This is all breaking so I don’t have any thoughts just yet. Check out the links to learn more, and post your thoughts in the comments. Also, CA reader and journo “Tim Johnson has more from the frontline”: in China. I hope The Party doesn’t start “censoring” more than just the medium for news. Good luck, Tim, we’ll be reading.

About Younghusband

Sir Francis Edward Younghusband (1863-1942) was a British explorer, army officer, military-political officer, and foreign correspondent born in India who led expeditions into Manchuria, Kashgar, and Tibet. He three times tried and failed to scale Mt. Everest and journeyed from China to India, crossing the Gobi desert and the Mustagh Pass (alt. c.19,000 ft/5,791 m) of the Karakoram mountain range in modern day Pakistan. Convinced of Russian designs on British interests in India, Younghusband proactively engaged in the nineteenth century spying and conflict over Central Asia between the British and the Russians known as the Great Game. "Younghusband" is a Canadian who has spent a number of years bouncing back and forth between his home country and Japan. Fluent in Japanese and English with experience in numerous other languages from Spanish to Georgian, Younghusband has travelled throughout Asia. He graduated with an MA from the War Studies Department at the Royal Military College of Canada, where he focussed on the Japanese oil industry and energy security issues. He has recently returned to Canada from Japan, and is working in the technology sector.
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16 Responses to Free Tibet! Free the media!

  1. From the footage, it’s hard to guess just how serious this is going to be, and what China’s reaction will be. Can they really risk a full-out, hard-core crackdown on the rioters? For every violent rioter there are who knows how many relatively peaceful protesters and demonstrators. If they react too strongly, won’t the others rise up in support? And either way, what will the Western governments make of all this?
    Will it escalate on its own?

  2. Jesus Reyes says:

    I have no beef with the Dalai Lama. If he can overthrow the Chinese government, more power to him.

    But…given a choice between the Dalai Lama’s medieval feudalism or China’s Authoritarian Capitalism, hmm, that’s a tough one. For it’s faults, the latter is a development model.

    I wonder if information wants to be free. There is no reporting in the west from Chinese news sources such as Xinhua or The China Daily. As one might imagine, the Chinese narrative is a completely different narrative.

    The eruption in Llasa wasn’t a demonstration that was attacked by government forces, it was a riot, a violent riot with wide spread loss to property and rather shocking physical violence perpetrated by the monks.

    There is no government that would or could or should stand down while such rioters run amok, but that is exactly what the western narrative suggests should happen.

    I dont know who is financing, organizing and promoting the Tibetian resistance and sent it “swarming”, whether it is the NED, the IRI, Freedom House, George Soros’ Open Society or all of the above or more, but the Chinese government knows. It has been a long time since this methodology worked. Everyone is quite hip to it, except of course, western public opinion.

  3. Curzon says:

    Jesus has a point. Also, I’m interested to see the Dalai Lama call for calm and that Tibetans should live in peace with their Chinese neighbors while young Tibetans call the man “a big blubbering wimp.”:

  4. Aceface says:

    What everyone is forgetting is PRC is the regime which advocated anti-imperialism in the past and considered Self-determination as one of the basic principles of international justice.They even supported the cause in the form of massive military aids.

    “There is no government that would or could or should stand down such rioters run amok,but that’s exactly what the western narrative suggest should happen”

    Lots of Japanese felt the same way about “the western narrative” on the matter regarding Japanese activities in Korea and China not so long ago.
    And Americans always cite this incident for the reason of their unconditional sympathy toward oppressed Asians.

  5. R. Elgin says:

    You know Jesus, based upon what I hear from the Dalai Lama, if he was ever in favor of “medieval feudalism”, I have never heard any indication of such from him or read it either. Unless I have missed something (I may have), I do not believe he is in favor of such a thing.

  6. Michael says:

    Something I’ve been wondering about for a while now: maps of Asia show most of its major rivers’ headwaters being in or near Tibet. Depending on how much water actually comes from that region, and what changes in rainfall happen in south/southeast Asia, that could put China in control of much of Asia’s water supply. This gives China additional leverage to keep other country’s noses out of Tibet, but it also gives other countries an incentive to stick their noses in in hopes of gaining some say over what happens in that region.

  7. aceface says:

    That’s already happening Michael.

  8. ron Patterson says:

    Well it is improbable that these riots were formented to an outside source. Tibet is a very very policed region. It was the anniversary of the 1959 demonstrations. medievel feudalism is not exactly what the Dalai Lama stands for and to call what the Chinese have a development model is misleading. This rage has been building in tibet for a long time and the Chinese only response in five decades has been more police and more soldiers. In the countryside every house flies the Dalai lama flag and you will also see military patrols and areas with high fences with razor wire and guards. When I was traveling West of Deqing in small villages I heard of men and women taken away and never heard from again. Also Hordes of Western and Chinese tourist stomping through sacred sites has enraged many Tibetans. The closing off of any reports from Tibet is ominous.

  9. China itself is run by feudalism. Just as European peasants were bound to the land of their birth (that land owned by their masters), Chinese are bound to their local area of birth by a “hukou” or “household registration”. You cannot legally move to another part of China without someone sponsoring your hukou, and even then, you cannot access the justice, educational or medical system in the same way that locals can.

    You are essentially an illegal alien in your own country.

  10. Kris says:

    On superficial examination, I’d say it would take balls to blog about Tibetan affairs with a handle like Younghusband, but I’m not sure if they’re the right sort of balls.

    Anyway, good blog.

  11. Using Tibet says:

    Using Tibet to settle scores with China
    Tibetans want to be free. But they’ve been given a green light to riot by Western elements driven more by spite and envy than a love for liberty.
    Brendan O’Neill

    The grainy, sneaked-out footage of Tibetans rioting in Lhasa and in parts of China itself clearly reveals one thing: Tibetans want more control over their daily lives and destinies. Frustrated with living under illiberal and undemocratic Chinese rule, they are lashing out against what they consider to be symbols of Chinese domination: Han Chinese businesses and buildings owned by Chinese officialdom.

    But there’s another story behind the images of instability being broadcast around the world, a more complex, dangerous and difficult-to-spot story of cynical, spiteful political manoeuvring. Elements in the West have effectively encouraged Tibetans to riot, not because they are committed to democracy and liberty, but because they fear and loathe the Chinese. Western encouragement of Tibetan instability may dress itself in the rallying cry of ‘Free Tibet!’, but its real motivation is to ‘Humiliate China!’

    The Tibetan protesters’ angry outbursts reveal their deep-seated dissatisfaction with life under the Stalinist regime. Yet the protests can also be seen as a physical, violent manifestation of Western China-bashing, which is increasing in intensity as the Beijing Olympics approach. For the past three months, Western officials and commentators have implicitly (and sometimes explicitly) encouraged Tibetans and others to ‘use the Olympics to humiliate China’ (1). Taking their cue, at least in part, from Western culture’s feverish fear and suspicion of China, Tibetans have launched protests that seem designed as much to please Western observers as to push through real, meaningful changes in Tibet and China.

    In both their timing and their presentation, the protests seem more a product of Western cajoling than of an independent, groundswell demand for liberty amongst Tibetans. It is no coincidence that the protests, reportedly the biggest amongst Tibetans since the late 1980s, have erupted in the run-up to Beijing 2008. Vast numbers of political entrepreneurs and activists are trying to transform the Olympics into a platform for moral posturing and China-bashing. According to the International Herald Tribune, such is the frenzied politicisation of the Olympics by Western officials and campaigners that athletes are becoming confused about which cause to support. They have found themselves ‘overwhelmed by menu choices’ and also by numerous ‘wardrobe decisions’: should they wear a ‘China, Please’ armband to protest against China’s links with Sudan, or a yellow ‘Livestrong’ bracelet to indicate their support for a ‘pollution-free games and lead-free toys’? An American triathlete has complained: ‘Every time you turn around, there is someone trying to make a statement about something.’ (2) The relentless politicisation of the Olympics by Western elements, the widespread discussion of Beijing 2008 as an opportunity to ‘humiliate China’, has helped to create a volatile atmosphere in the more restive parts of China and its surrounding territories, including Tibet.

    Presentation-wise, the protesters’ use of English slogans and their speedy dissemination of mobile-phone footage suggest the demonstrations are aimed very much at a Western audience. In the march of the Tibetan monks in northern India last week, and during the more fiery protests in Tibet and China over the weekend, Tibetans carried placards with English-language demands such as ‘Tibet Needs You’. They wore headbands saying ‘Free Tibet’ – the favoured slogan of Western middle-class and even aristocratic pro-Tibet sympathisers, such as Prince Charles (3). Tibetan monks in Dharamsala, India (where the Tibetan government-in-exile resides, led by the Dalai Lama) have put up English posters saying ‘Beijing 2008: A Celebration of Human Rights Violations’ (4). One British newspaper has celebrated Tibetan protesters’ use of ‘the most dangerous weapon in the world – the cameras on their mobile phones’ (5). Many Western observers who cheer Tibetans for using this ‘weapon’ to beam images of their struggle around the world would probably feel very uncomfortable if Tibetans used real weapons to force their Stalinist rulers to make changes or concessions.

    The protests seem orientated very much towards the outside world. They appear to gain their legitimacy and fire from today’s widespread China-bashing, and they seem designed, in some ways, for Western consumption. This shows the extent to which Tibetans have become caught up in a global tug-of-war between the West and China. No doubt some people feel genuinely inspired by the Tibetan unrest, but many of the Western elements cheering the Tibetan cause and encouraging the Tibetans to ‘humiliate China’ are motivated less by a genuine commitment to liberty and democracy than by a deep and cynical desire to make life difficult for the Chinese.

    Today’s Tibetan protests are taking place in a broad, quite sinister political context: the West’s transformation of China into a cultural and political target. In recent years, China has inexorably, and in some ways unconsciously, been transformed into a whipping boy for the West. Anti-Chinese sentiments cut across the political divide: on both the old right and the new left, attacking China for its economic growth, human rights record, environmental destruction or suppression of the Tibetan people has become de rigueur. There is an unspoken consensus today – amongst Western officials, commentators and radical activists – that China is a global threat which must be put back in its place with a short, sharp dose of humiliation. Far more than the demonisation of the Soviet Union as the ‘Evil Empire’ during the Cold War era, the labelling of China as a dirty, uncontrollable, violent beast enjoys widespread, unquestioned support throughout political circles in the West.

    On the right, China-bashing has become a way of settling old scores from the Cold War. American right-wing thinkers and officials seem to take comfort in the familiar feeling of standing up to an ‘old communist foe’. Robbed of the ‘Evil Empire’ in the East by the end of the Cold War, and thrown by the unpredictability of global affairs more broadly, old right elements cling to China as an old-fashioned enemy from an era when politics was simpler and international affairs were more black-and-white; they are trying to recreate that era with a new ‘yellow-and-white’ divide between barbaric China and the civilised USA (6). Last week, the Pentagon made a splash with its annual report to US Congress on the threat posed by Chinese military power. It was hard not to nod, at least in partial agreement, with the Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman who accused officials in the Pentagon of being consumed by ‘Cold War thinking’ (7).

    There is also an element of palpable jealousy in right-wing attacks on contemporary China. As America’s economy spins from one crisis to another, becoming reliant in many ways on East Asian cash to bail it out, traditionalist economic thinkers are discussing Chinese growth as a problem and a threat. Using the language of environmentalism – clearly sensing that old-fashioned protectionism would not go down very well today – establishment publications in the US publish essays with headlines such as ‘Choking on growth’; they argue that if China is to reduce its carbon emissions (that is, slow down its growth) then there will have to be a ‘wholesale mindset change’ amongst the Chinese people (8). Books such as The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future are snapped up and celebrated by traditionalist American thinkers and economists (9).

    Amongst left-leaning campaign groups and writers, China has become the No.1 International Bogeyman because of what they see as its ceaseless industrialisation. Westerners who find the idea of growth so nineteenth-century openly discuss China as a poisonous nation that is killing its own people and possibly the planet. Liberal green writers see only the ‘dust, waste and dirty water’ in modern China; they describe the economic progress there as the ‘mass poisoning of a people and the ecological devastation of a nation’, which is a product, apparently, of greed – ‘ours and theirs’ (10). Those greedy Chinese, getting jobs in the city and buying cars and TVs… why don’t they go back to the paddy fields where they belong? Green campaign groups call on Western nations to cut their political and economic ties with China, and instruct Western consumers that ‘If it says “Made in China”, don’t buy it’: only then, they argue, will ‘The World’s Biggest CO2 Emitter’ and ‘The World’s No.1 Consumer of Coal’ (that’s ‘China’ to those of us who don’t think and speak in the dehumanising language of trendy China-bashers) be forced to change its ways (11). They fancy this as a radical stance, but in today’s Great China-Bashing Consensus, greens are merely the protesting wing of the backward, fearful, protectionist politics of a West worried about the ‘Chinese threat’.

    In many ways, campaigners and commentators in the West are projecting their own disgust with ‘the Western way of life’ on to China. They see in China everything that they doubt or loathe about modernity itself. That is why commentators frequently tell China not to make ‘the same mistakes that we made’. On everything from economic growth to sporting competitiveness, from the use of coal to the building of skyscrapers, today’s China-bashing is motivated by Western self-loathing, as well as by spite and envy towards the seemingly successful Chinese. Ironically, this means that China is now seen as ‘the Other’ precisely because it appears too Western: it is China’s ambition, growth, its leaps forward – things that a more confident West might once have celebrated – which make it seem alien to Western observers who today prefer carbon-counting to factory-building and road tolls to road construction. China-bashing is underpinned by a crisis of belief in the West in things such as progress, growth, development.

    It is the sweeping consensus that China is dangerous and diseased that has attracted Western observers to the issue of Tibet. Both left and right elements in the West are exploiting the Tibet issue as a way of putting pressure on China. They are less interested in securing real freedom and equality for Tibetans, and for the Chinese people more broadly, than they are in using and abusing internal disgruntlement in China and nearby territories as a way of humiliating the Chinese government. That is why Tibetans can symbolise different things to different people. For conservative commentators, the Tibetans are warriors for freedom against a Stalinist monolith; their protests are a replay of the Velvet Revolution in Czechoslovakia in 1989 (12). For greener, more liberal campaigners, Tibetans are symbols of natural and mystical purity in contrast to rampant Western and Chinese consumerism. As one author puts it, Tibetan culture offers ‘powerful, untarnished and coherent alternatives to Western egotistical lifestyles [and] our gradually more pointless pursuit of material interests’ (13). Various political factions in the West are using Tibetans as ventriloquist dummies in order to mouth their own complaints against modern China. They are promoting Tibetan unrest not to liberate Tibetans but in the hope that the protests will represent their own personal disgust for China in a real-world, physical manner.

    There is a long history of Western politicians and activists using Tibet as a stick with which to beat China. In his fascinating book Prisoners of Shangri-La: Tibetan Buddhism and the West, Donald S Lopez Jnr shows how, in the Western imagination, ‘the invasion of Tibet by [China] was and still is represented as an undifferentiated mass of godless Communists overrunning a peaceful land devoted only to ethereal pursuits… Tibet embodies the spiritual and the ancient, China the material and the modern. Tibetans are superhuman, Chinese are subhuman.’ (14) Today, too, pro-Tibetan activism often disguises a view of the Chinese as subhuman. Indeed, in the current, all-encompassing right/left consensus about China, even left-leaning campaigns can employ old right tactics of demonising the Chinese. A poster for the trendy campaign group Free Tibet shows Tibetans as serene and peaceful and the Chinese as smog-producing modernisers with distinctly slitty eyes and goofy teeth (15).

    spiked is no friend of the Chinese regime. Yet those promoting self-serving internal unrest in the run-up to the Olympics, encouraging Tibetans and others to bash China for real where the West only does it with words and propaganda, are playing a dangerous game indeed. Such a strategy of cynical destabilisation could unleash yet more violence in China, and have repercussions around the world. And the biggest losers, at least in the short term, are likely to be Tibetans themselves: they will not win liberty or equality by being transformed into performing protesters for the benefit of Chinaphobic Westerners.

    Brendan O’Neill is editor of spiked. Visit his website here.

    (1) China feels the heat of its Olympic ambitions, Los Angeles Times, 13 February 2008

    (2) Athletes face dizzying choice of causes, International Herald Tribune, 15 August 2007

    (3) See Australia won’t support boycott of Beijing Games: Olympic chief, The Citizen, 17 March 2008

    (4) See Australia won’t support boycott of Beijing Games: Olympic chief, The Citizen, 17 March 2008

    (5) Dalai Lama attacks ‘cultural genocide’, Independent, 17 March 2008

    (6) China condemns Pentagon’s Cold War thinking, Reuters, 4 March 2008

    (7) China condemns Pentagon’s Cold War thinking, Reuters, 4 March 2008

    (8) Economy: China’s ability to tackle greenhouse gas caps, Council on Foreign Relations, September 2007

    (9) The River Runs Black: The Environmental Challenge to China’s Future, Elizabeth C Economy, Cornell University Press, 2005

    (10) See Polluting minds, by Brendan O’Neill, Comment Is Free, 25 July 2007

    (11) See Enough is Enough’s Boycott China campaign here

    (12) Could Tibet achieve the impossible dream of independence?, Vancouver Online, 16 March 2008

    (13) See Why Western Tibetophilia won’t set Tibet free, by Brendan O’Neill

    (14) See Why Western Tibetophilia won’t set Tibet free, by Brendan O’Neill

    (15) See Why Western Tibetophilia won’t set Tibet free, by Brendan O’Neill

    reprinted from:

    Related link:

  12. Aceface says:

    Brendan O’neil sure does write like a Trotskyist.

  13. Michael says:

    He couldn’t just provide a summary and a link?

  14. janarson says:

    Coffee sippers who think it might be a good idea to free Tibet from China are about 58 years too late. China is not going to free Tibet, and Western encouragement of Tibetan resistance will only get people killed needlessly.

    Tibet was part of China for centuries. In 1913, when China seemed to be falling apart, the British Empire encouraged Tibet to declare its independence. It did, and that lasted until 1950, when, at the end of the Chinese civil war, China invaded and reclaimed the area. By then, the impotent British Empire was in no position to help anyone even if it had been so inclined. America chose to do nothing.

    If you are not willing to make your way to the Tibetan plateau and face Chinese guns and prisons, then you certainly should not sit around some coffee shop and urge Tibetans to do so. Tibet is a strategic area of China, and the Chinese government is not going to give it up or grant it independence or even autonomy. To paraphrase a famous outlaw, it is enough that we know that China will do what it has to do.

    As for us, we should do nothing. Tibet is part of China, and what happens there is an internal affair of China. The rest of the world has no right to interfere, and other than bloviating for a while, I seriously doubt that it will. Unfortunately, in this age of global communications even bloviating can cause bad things to happen to people.

    Boycotting the Olympics is a foolish idea by a tiny minority of fanatics. The Olympics have nothing to do with Tibet, just as they had nothing to do with the Russian invasion of Afghanistan. Boycotting the games would be a cruel blow to athletes who have been sweating and training for four years. It would accomplish nothing. It would further politicize the games, which should be encouraged to return to their amateur status.

    China was awarded the Summer Games in a fair international competition and has spent a lot of money getting ready for them. Any attempt to spoil the games will do a great disservice to the athletes, the Chinese government and the Chinese people. It will do nothing positive and will only harden attitudes and end up making the world even more dangerous than it already is.

    Americans in particular should keep in mind that we are currently engaged in mismanaging two occupations of two countries that we illegally invaded. Neither enterprise is going well. Neither is our economy. In short, we have enough on our own plate without trying to steal a bite off of China’s plate. We should make sure that Afghanistan and Iran are the last wheezes of the sick American Empire and shut it down and return to our republic.

    I don’t know why some Americans seem to have trouble realizing that the days of the European empires are over. Part of the problem is that we have way too many vocational intellectuals and way too few real intellects. A vocational intellectual is someone who makes a living writing or talking. Such people tend to live inside their heads. Delusions of grandeur and fantasies about the real world are constant occupational hazards for such people.

    No country in the world has to do what we tell it to do. Certainly that’s the case with the big powers like China, Russia, Japan and India. As you can see every day in your morning paper, even a little country like Iraq can cause us more trouble than it’s worth. It’s a crime against humanity that our sons and daughters are dying in the desert dust while fat politicians cavort about in Washington. Don’t encourage Tibetans to die in some futile fantasy about independence. They are not independent. They are part of China, and part of China they will stay.

  15. Rich says:

    Let’s skip the protests and do something real to free Tibet from Chinese rule. The Chinese will never give up Tibet because of its strategic location and valuable resources. The only way I see to get around this is give them something of equal value in exchange for Tibetan independence. I say the U.S. should step up and offer the Chinese Alaska for Tibet.

    Hold On! Let me finish. It makes a lot of sense:

    1. There’s less than 650,000 people in Alaska, while there’s 3 million Tibetans. Seems like a good trade.
    2. Alaska is far away from the rest of us and really has little interaction with the rest of the U.S. The only time most people ever see it are from cruise ships, and I’m sure the Chinese will want to keep the cruise business going. The plus side is you’d be able to get really good Chinese food in Juneau.
    3. In this way, the U.S. can show that Iraq was just a fluke (you know, that invading a sovereign nation half way across the world and causing over 100,000 deaths in a few short years, most of them civilians – to bring liberty and justice for all trick) We are not only vocally compassionate but that we back up our compassion with deeds.
    4. In making this trade, we will finally, in the karmic cycle, be making up for the genocide we committed on the Native Americans, who, as we all know, had a peaceful, beautiful culture that was totally in sync with nature, until they were decimated by disease and we finished off most of the rest with guns and sabres. Despite the fact that a few of the survivors are making mint with their casinos (too little too late for me), the majority still live in poverty stricken reservations slowly dying of alcohol abuse. In fact, it boggles my mind that such a rich and powerful country like the U.S. cannot do enough for a handful of remanents of a dead culture. Heck, we don’t even try to teach them their language in elementary school. If only there were enough of them left I’m sure they would be rioting in protest like the Tibetans were in Lhasa.

    Ok, back on track. I’ll bet a dollar to a peso that the Chinese will take the deal. We just have to act.

  16. tenzin says:

    FT announces Free Tibet 2008 Television
    Posted August 11, 2008 at 5:43 PM

    Students for a Free Tibet has a new online video channel broadcasting from London throughout the worldwide uprising for Tibetan freedom during the Beijing Olympics: Free Tibet 2008 Television, or FT08.TV.

    With all the Olympic actions for Tibet taking place and particularly the incredible success of the ‘opening’ banner action outside Beijing’s ‘Bird’s Nest’ stadium on Aug. 6th and subsequent media storm here in the UK, it took some time to get FT08.TV ready for prime time.

    But with the dedicated help of lots of people, SFT’s new video channel is up and running, and filled with lots of must-see on-demand content, including inspiring Tibet activist video-profiles, action reports, video-blogs, and more.

    We’re also airing a nightly Windhorse Report live from London with SFT leaders Tenzin Dorjee and Han Shan – a roundup of reports from Beijing and around the world during the Olympics, with breaking news about protests, call-in interviews with news-making activists, episodes of SFT-TV (the efforts of SFT’s global grassroots), and info and analysis about the situation on the ground in Tibet.

    There will be more and more compelling content to watch every day and we’ll be improving the channel/website as we go (after all, this is but one small facet of our Olympic efforts right now). But please come check it out: surf around the many videos on the channel, or watch the stream (click on “Streaming Now” in the upper left-hand corner). Last but not least, you’re invited to submit video… check out the channel for more on what we’re looking for.

    Please help spread the word about FT08.TV– join the facebook group, blog about it, embed the videos, spam your address book – and of course, keep watching.

    And don’t forget to visit SFT’s Olympics Campaign website: and SFT’s blog: for more news and analysis from the frontlines of the current global effort to make Olympic history for Tibet.

    Note: many thanks to Nathan Dorjee, Shannon Service, Andi Mignolo, Alex Fountain, Thupten Nyima, Kala Mendoza, and many others for helping to make FT08.TV happen at this critical time.
    5:32 PM

    Go on your facebook, etc to announce After go on “social justice” websites like “” (check it out) to announce Also check out blogs discussing Tibet issue’s and post the official ft08 announcement.

    Check out recent news articles on Tibet. Usually they have “comment” sections, post the ft08 annoucement.