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A newspaper published by China’s ruling Communist Party is blasting the latest Guns N’ Roses album as an attack on the Chinese nation.

Delayed since recording began in 1994, “Chinese Democracy” hit stores in the U.S. on Sunday, although it is unlikely to be sold legally in China, where censors maintain tight control over films, music and publications.


In an article Monday headlined “American band releases album venomously attacking China,” the Global Times said unidentified Chinese Internet users had described the album as part of a plot by some in the West to “grasp and control the world using democracy as a pawn.”

The album “turns its spear point on China,” the article said.

China’s Foreign Ministry did not respond to faxed questions about the article, although a spokesman speaking on routine condition of anonymity said: “We don’t need to comment on that.”

Spokesmen for the Culture Ministry and State Administration of Radio, Film and Television, government bodies that regulate album releases and performances, could not be reached for comment.

The Global Times article referred only to the title of the album and not to specific song lyrics. The record’s title track makes a reference to the Falun Gong meditation movement that was banned by China as an “evil cult” and warns “if your Great Wall rocks blame yourself,” in an apparent message to the country’s authoritarian government.

Songs from the album could be heard on Internet sites such as YouTube and the band’s MySpace page on Monday and it was not immediately possible to tell whether China’s Internet monitors were seeking to block access to it.

Monitors use content filters that highlight and sometimes block messages containing words such as democracy. That prompted some Internet users to combine English and Chinese characters in their postings about the album to skirt such monitoring.

China approves only limited numbers of foreign films and recordings for distribution each year, partly due to political concerns but also to protect domestic producers.

Live performances are also closely regulated, with bands forced to submit set lists beforehand. The Rolling Stones were asked not to play several songs with suggestive lyrics during their 2006 China debut, including “Brown Sugar,” “Honky Tonk Woman,” “Beast of Burden” and “Let’s Spend the Night Together.”

Earlier this year, bandleader Harry Connick Jr. was forced to make last-minute changes to his show in Shanghai because an old song list was mistakenly submitted to Chinese authorities to secure the performance permit for the concert. Authorities insisted he play the songs on the original list, even though his band did not have the music for them.

That came just a week after Icelandic singer Bjork embarrassed authorities by shouting “Tibet!” at the end of a Shanghai concert, prompting stricter vetting of foreign performers.

Despite such restrictions, computer file sharing and pirating of DVDs, computer games and music CDs is rampant in China, meaning that much banned material is available through alternative channels.

The week-long meeting of Tibetan exiles in Dharmsala, India, has inevitably drawn comparisons with the activities of Burma’s own exiled opposition community.

Tibet and Burma each have a government in exile. But some Burmese exiles and Burma scholars claim that while the Tibetan opposition in exile, led by the Dalai Lama, shows cohesion, the same cannot be said for Burma’s.

Criticism of the Burmese opposition in exile has grown recently, with complaints that it lacks unity and a united strategy, providing for dialogue between all groups.

One leading Burma expert, Mikael Gravers, associate professor at Aarhus University in Denmark, said there were naturally differences between opposition groups who have to act internally under constraint and those who can act more freely in the diaspora.

“They literally live in very different worlds,” he told The Irrawaddy in an email interview.

“In Burma, the repression is now as massive as ever seen,” said Gravers, author of National As Political Paranoia in Burma: An Essay on The Historical Practice of Power.“Thus, I think critics should consider if it is the failure of the opposition alone or the result of the repression which has silenced and split those who struggle for a change.”

In the late 1990s, there was a significant change in the Burmese exile movement with the formation of a Burmese government in exile, the National Coalition Government of the Union of Burma (NCGUB). Aung San Suu Kyi’s cousin, Sein Win, has led the NCGUB from the start. Observers say the NCGUB has yet to find a leadership role for the democracy movement in exile.

Apart from the NCGUB, there are several umbrella organizations within Burma’s exile movement, such as the National Council of the Union of Burma (NCUB), the Forum for Democracy in Burma (FDB), the Members of Parliamentary Union (MPU). They fall out from time to time—most recently when the NCGUB failed to cooperate with the NCUB in its action against the Burmese junta seat at the United Nations.

A NCUB secretary, Aung Moe Zaw, said the Burmese exile movement played a supporting role in the pro-democracy struggle, while the Tibetan opposition was centered in exile. “The nature of Burma’s democracy movement and Tibet’s one are not the same,” he said.

Although different Burmese exile groups were working under a collective leadership for democracy, the movement as a whole had failed to engage the participation of all Burmese exiles, Aung Moe Zaw said.

Despite the impression of unity given by the Tibetan exile movement, the Dalai Lama’s strategy for Tibet, calling for autonomy and not independence, came in for criticism at the Dharmsala meeting.

Critics questioned this so-called “middle way.” Tsewang Rigzin, president of the Tibetan Youth Congress, told The Associated Press ahead of the meeting: “We need to have a strategy. It’s the middle way right now. But that has been a failure.

“We have history on our side; we have truth on our side. We know the Chinese—there’s no way we can live under China.”

The Dalai Lama claimed at the end of the meeting that he had majority support for his “middle way path to the Tibetan issue.”

The meeting left open, however, the options of demanding independence or self-determination if China fails to grant Tibet autonomy.

China has occupied Tibet since 1950 and brutally suppressed a Tibetan uprising in 1959. The Dalai Lama fled to India and formed the Tibetan exiled government in Dharmsala.

In March this year, five months before the Beijing Olympics, Tibetan protestors, led by Buddhist monks, challenged Chinese rule. The uprising was crushed by Chinese troops—with the kind of brutality employed by Burmese security forces to suppress Burma’s own uprising in September 2007.