- The Washington Times - Friday, March 21, 2008

BEIJING — Throughout the crisis in Tibet, images of Tibetan rioters attacking ethnic Han Chinese have been shown over and over on Chinese television.

Chinese officials have ordered the Chinese press to “incite patriotism and hatred of the Dalai Lama clique” among the Chinese people.

Heavy Internet censorship ensured that many international news Web sites were intermittently blocked and that comments contrary to the Communist Party line were deleted from online forums.

But support for the government has flooded Chinese language Internet chat rooms, with anger often expressed against Tibetans for hurting China’s image, especially with the Summer Olympics just months away.

“Your average Chinese citizen would have to be very conscientious indeed to break through the wall of skewed facts now facing the nation,” said David Bandurski, project researcher for Hong Kong University’s China Media Project.

China blanketed restive Tibetan areas yesterday with a huge buildup of troops, turning small towns across a wide swath of western China into armed encampments, the Associated Press reported.

Chinese officials also acknowledged for the first time yesterday that last week’s anti-government protests had spread far beyond Tibet’s borders.

In an overture of peace, the Dalai Lama offered to meet with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other leaders, reiterating that he was not asking for Tibetan independence.

China rejected the offer.

Meanwhile, a major earthquake struck western China early today, but there were no initial reports of casualties.

The 7.2 magnitude quake hit at 6:33 a.m. (6:33 p.m. EDT yesterday), about 140 miles southeast of the city of Hotan in Xinjiang province, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. A USGS geophysicist said the temblor was the biggest there on record.

China says 16 persons have been killed in the violence in Tibet, denying claims by Tibetan exile groups say that up to 99 persons had died.

“Silence and suppression aren’t the only wrenches in the propagandist’s toolbox. Releasing selective information can be more effective than no information at all,” Mr. Bandurski said.

Images illustrating violence by Tibetans have been carefully edited to prevent the more graphic shots of cars being torched and overturned from making the final cut.

“This is because party leaders do not want Chinese with different kind of grievances, like stolen farmland, to get any ideas,” Mr. Bandurski said.

Jasper Becker, publisher of Asia Weekly magazine and the London Guardian’s China correspondent when riots in Lhasa led to the imposition of martial law, believes nothing has changed nearly two decades later.

“There was the usual delayed response and confusion as they spent four or five days not knowing what to do. Then, once again, they laid all the blame on the Tibetans and blackguarded the Dalai Lama,” Mr. Becker said.

“We are still seeing a Cultural Revolution pattern of propaganda, similar to the techniques used by the Nazis and [Joseph] Goebbels. China is always painted as the innocent victim rather than what they are: a colonialist power in Tibet,” he said.

It is not subtle, but neither does it need to be. The majority of Chinese have responded in the way the government had hoped: with anger and resentment toward Tibetans.

One Xinhua journalist, who wished to remain anonymous, insisted that he did not need the agency’s propaganda output to feel irate.

“We are angry not because of all the news reports but because we can see the facts. It’s not just pictures from Xinhua. When I see photos from foreign news agencies, I also feel hatred towards the people who are carrying out the violence,” he said of the Tibetans.

“Before the riots, I was neutral towards the Dalai Lama, despite the government’s criticisms. I heard he was a calm, spiritual leader. But now, I realize he is two-faced. He orchestrated the protests in Lhasa and all around the world. Premier Wen [Jiabao] said he had ample evidence to prove this,” he said.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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