From CNN – Chinese authorities have obstructed foreign journalists at least 30 times as they sought to cover unrest in Tibet and nearby provinces in recent days, an organization for international journalists in China said Tuesday.
The Foreign Correspondents Club of China says it has heard from journalists who were stopped and ordered away from sites of violent clashes. Those clashes are reported to have been between Tibetans and Han Chinese as well as the Chinese military and Tibetan protesters.
The accounts of obstructionism — if true — illustrate the extreme difficulty of obtaining reliable information from Tibet, where access is tightly controlled by the Chinese authorities.
Just Tuesday, a CNN crew was on its way toward a site where Tibetan exiles say Chinese forces killed 30 Tibetan protesters. Yet Chinese security forces made the CNN crew turn back while they were still hundreds of miles away.
The Chinese government, meanwhile, lashed out Wednesday at what it sees as distorted news coverage that paints its forces as aggressors while downplaying the violent acts of Tibetan demonstrators.
A high-ranking Tibetan Communist Party official, identified as Ragdi, said foreign news coverage on the riots in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa last week was “outrageous and ill-motivated,” according to a report Wednesday in the state-run Xinhua news agency.
“Some Western media purposely distorted the facts and viciously described severe crime as peaceful demonstration, so as to slander our legitimate efforts to keeping social stability as violent crackdown,” the Tibet-born Ragdi said.
In Beijing, the Foreign Correspondents Club of China has advocated on behalf of journalists in China. It said that international journalists have faced interference 30 times recently from Chinese authorities, including in the cities of Lhasa, Beijing, Chengdu and Xining, and several locations in Gansu Province.
Some journalists provided the following accounts to the club:
• Chinese police detained a Finnish Broadcasting Co. correspondent and cameraman outside the monastery town of Xiahe, in Gansu Province, on March 17. The police threatened to confiscate their footage but let the reporters leave after the journalists showed them some of their footage. The news crew says it also managed to escape with some footage that it had hidden.
• Police turned back a reporter from the United Kingdom’s The Guardian newspaper after he drove over a mountain pass to enter an area where protests had taken place. Reporter Jonathan Watts told the foreign-correspondents club that an English-speaking officer told him “There is a police action taking place. Foreigners are not allowed inside. These are the orders of high authority.” It happened on March 17 in Linxia, in Gansu Province.
• Police stopped correspondents from Britain’s ITV News an hour outside of a monastery town in Gansu Province on March 16. Officers took details from their passports and told them to leave. A plainclothes policeman filmed them. Authorities also recorded the driver’s license and license plate of their “terrified” taxi driver, ITV correspondent John Ray said. Later, as they tried to cover a vigil in Beijing, some authorities manhandled them away as others photographed them.
• On March 16, police barred a crew from ABC News in the United States from filming in a Tibetan neighborhood in Chengdu, in Sichuan Province. The reporters told police of an Olympic rule allowing foreign reporters to travel and interview anyone who consents, journalist Stephanie Sy said, but police “simply shrugged and hailed us a taxi.”
•Police turned back a correspondent for the U.S.-based National Public Radio on a road in Gansu Province. The reporter took a back road, but was turned back again at a checkpoint. A police car followed her car for about 62 miles (100 km). Then a sedan followed her car for another 186 miles (300 km) — until she had almost reached the airport.