Select foreign reporters were allowed into Tibet on March 26, 2008, following China's armed crackdown on Tibetan protestors. The two-day trip was accompanied by Chinese communist officials.
On March 14, 2008 when China's violent suppression of the Tibetan people took place, all foreign media had their equipment confiscated and were forced to leave Tibet. Two weeks later, the Chinese authorities invited a select group of foreign journalists to return to Lhasa, in order to interview some so-called “victims of criminal actions” during the protest. The interviews were to be conducted entirely under the organization and supervision of Chinese authorities.
According to the Voice of America (VOA), this group of journalists arrived in Lhasa on March 26. Journalists from 17 media organizations were selected by the Information Office of China's State Council. The journalists came from the United States, Britain, Russia, Japan, Hong Kong and Taiwan. The group also included one Al-Jazeera reporter from Qatar and two reporters from China's official media. However, no reporter came from the Voice of America, the BBC and other media who broadcast daily programs in Chinese. In addition, no reporter from CNN or Reuters was invited.
Japanese Reporter: 'There Is No Objectivity'
Some foreign reporters in China pointed out that interviews organized like this cannot be comprehensive or objective. A reporter from Japan's Tokyo Broadcasting Corporation told the VOA that they wanted their reporters conducting exclusive interviews, rather than participating in media junkets where local authorities arrange everything and no objectivity is possible.
Qin Gang, a spokesman for the Chinese Foreign Ministry, said at a press conference in Beijing that China's tight restrictions on the Tibet visit were for the safety of foreign journalists. He also said that those restrictions were needed for the local government to maintain law and order.
This despite the fact that the Chinese regime assures that the situation in Tibet is now stable. “I do not understand that,” said the Japanese reporter.
Qin Gang also said that China will try to create more interview opportunities and expressed hope that reporters would interview “according to the law.”
Liu Meiyuan: Far Below Expectations of the International Community
When interviewed by AFP, Liu Meiyuan, Director of the Beijing Office of U.S. Newsweek, said, “We call for unrestricted interviews in Tibet. Clearly, [this trip] is better than no visit, but this is far below our requirements.”
Liu said that placing such restrictions on media violates the regulations for foreign reporters that the Chinese government said it would adhere to in an announcement last year. He said that this is far below what the international community would expect of a government hosting the Olympic Games.
When interviewed by The Epoch Times, Zhang Jielian, an expert on China issues, said this is a favorite ploy of the CCP. He pointed out that when allegations of organ harvesting from living Falun Gong practitioners was made public two years ago, the CCP did not respond to inquiries at the beginning, and only after three weeks of hiding evidence, did it begin to invite international media and politicians to visit a site where atrocities were alleged to have taken place.
He pointed out that this time the same tactic will be applied: interviews will be conducted with previously selected people at a specified location on a prearranged time, under the supervision of CCP officials.
Zhang warned foreign media not to unwittingly act as a propaganda tool for CCP as they too often have in the past. This makes it easier for the CCP to violate human rights, he said.