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Reporters Without Borders called today for the foreign news media to be allowed back immediately into Tibet and nearby provinces with a Tibetan population, where the Chinese authorities have maintained a news blackout and have been conducting a massive propaganda campaign for the past six weeks.

“What is the Chinese government hiding behind Tibet’s closed doors?” the press freedom organisation asked. “Things are clearly far from being back to normal, as the authorities claim. The few reports emerging suggest a very different situation, one of arrests and a climate of fear in the cities and around the monasteries.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “The news blackout facilitates the work of the government’s propaganda machine but also the spread of rumours encouraged by certain groups abroad. We appeal to the European Union and the United Nations to try to get the government to allow foreign reporters to travel freely in Tibet and the neighbouring regions.”

The organisers of the Beijing Olympic Games yesterday announced that a press trip to cover an attempt to take the Olympic torch to the top of Everest was being postponed indefinitely. Reporters were supposed to have gone to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa first to get adjusted to the altitude, but the Lhasa stage of the trip has been cancelled altogether because of “meteorological” problems, the authorities said. “Only coverage of the torch relay will be allowed,” an official said.

No journalist has been allowed to move about freely in Tibet and the regions with a Tibetan population since 14 March. Two press trips were organised by the authorities to Lhasa and to Labrang monastery in Gansu province. Tourists have been banned from visiting the Himalayan region until further notice.

Reporters Without Borders has learned of about 50 violations of the right of foreign journalists to move about freely in the Tibetan regions since mid-March.

The authorities have waged a massive propaganda campaign designed to portray Tibetans as “rioters” and “terrorists.” The official news agency Xinhua’s dispatches talk above all of a return to normal and the discovery of weapons in Buddhist temples. Xinhua announced that the authorities have found firearms, dynamite and satellite dishes in 11 monasteries in Gansu.

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Reading the news this morning I was not surprised to hear little about the Olympic torch and its passage through Dar es Salaam in Tanzania. However, what DID strike me was some of the information found while reading an article from the AFP:

The five-kilometre-relay, which took place amid heavy downpour in this Indian Ocean city, ended at the Chinese-built National Stadium without any incident or breach of security.

Interesting, isn’t it? That China has such an influence in the city and the torch passes without so much as a single protest?!

Not only that, but:

Tanzania, long a socialist country with close ties to the eastern Communist bloc, enjoys excellent relations with China since diplomatic ties were established in 1964.

The Asian giant, which has an aggressive economic policy on the mineral-rich continent, is a major investor in the east African nation’s fledgling economy.

Bilateral trade stood at 794 million dollars (500 million euros) in 2007, close to a 50 percent increase from the previous year.

President Jakaya Kikwete is currently on a four-day state visit to China and the flame was met at the airport by Prime Minister Mizengo Pinda late Saturday. It will then be flown Oman less than 24 hours later.

Interesting, eh?

China has arrested nine Tibetan Buddhist monks who have been accused of a bomb attack, according to the official Xinhua news agency.

Chinese officials said the monks’ homemade bomb exploded in a government building in eastern Tibet on 23 March.

Xinhua news agency did not explain why the alleged bomb incident was not reported at the time.

News of the arrests came as Beijing continued to attack overseas critics of its crackdown in the Himalayan region.

Xinhua said the monks confessed to planting the explosive in Gyanbe township.

Beijing’s claims that the recent Tibetan protests were part of a violent campaign by the Dalai Lama, the region’s exiled spiritual leader, to disrupt Chinese rule in Tibet and sabotage the Beijing Olympics in August.

Bombing unreported

The alleged bombing is the first to be reported in Tibet since the anti-China protests began 10 March in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

After China’s crackdown, demonstrations by pro-Tibet activists – and other groups critical of Beijing’s human rights record – have haunted the Olympic torch relay in London, Paris and San Francisco this month, stirring anger in China.

Chinese President Hu Jintao took a hard line Saturday, saying the problems in Tibet were a purely internal affair directly threatening Chinese sovereignty.

[TimesOnline]

Athletes who display Tibetan flags at Olympic venues — including in their own rooms — could be expelled from this summer’s Games in Beijing under anti-propaganda rules.

Jacques Rogge, the president of the International Olympic Committee (IOC), said that competitors were free to express their political views but faced sanctions if they indulged in propaganda.

He accompanied those comments with an admission that the Games were in “crisis” after pro-Tibet protests engulfed the Olympic torch relay.

Mr Rogge’s call for Beijing to abide by its promise to address human rights was given short shrift by Beijing, which bluntly told him to keep politics out of the Games.

The question of what will constitute propaganda when the Games are on in August and what will be considered opinion under IOC rules is one vexing many in the Olympic movement. The Olympic Charter bans any kind of “demonstration or political, religious or racial propaganda” in any Olympic venue or area.

This includes the opening and closing ceremonies, the medal podiums and the Athletes’ Village.

Addressing concerns about free speech, Mr Rogge described the scenario of a Spanish athlete doing a lap of honour in the Olympic stadium with Spain’s national flag and his provincial flag as “perfectly legitimate”.

He said: “We have had many examples of mixed flags where the athlete is proud of that. Is there a will to demonstrate propaganda or is it a desire to demonstrate joy in his victory?”

The IOC did not specify whether a Chinese athlete or a foreign competitor of Tibetan origin flying the Tibetan flag would be regarded as patriotic or propagandist. A spokeswoman said that there had been no discussion internally or with the Chinese authorities about use of the Tibetan national flag. Asked whether athletes would be allowed to hang the flag in their rooms, she said: “The village is an Olympic venue so it falls under the same rules and regulations of any venue which would mean that anything in there would be judged on whether it was a provocative propaganda initiative.”

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From the People’s Daily Online:

With the blessing of the entire world, the sacred Olympic flame is being relayed by thousands of torchbearers across five continents. As the supreme image of Olympic spirit, the torch carries a shared dream of the humankind. Through its relay, people of different races in different regions with different beliefs share the civilized concepts of”peace, friendship and progress”. It is also precisely for this reason that the 2008 torch relay has been welcomed and supported by nations and their populace in its global journey.

It is regrettable, however, that a handful of people sought to disrupt the relay. Since the Olympic sacred fire set off in Greece, a small number of Tibetan independence elements put up one prank after another in a bid to obstruct the Olympic torch relay. In Greece, some of these Tibetan independence protesters were lying on the road when torchbearers were passing by; in London, they attempted to snatch the Olympic torch from the torchbearer and, in Paris, a”Tibet independence” protestor tried to use a fire extinguisher to put out the Olympic torch.

These pranks of”Tibet independence” elements have laid bare before the people worldwide their desperate moves to secede Tibet unscrupulously. For consecutive days, firm opposition by national governments and denunciations by people along the relay route have once again admonished the Tibetan independence elements: If they want to draw on the international attention to the so-called Tibetan issue so as to”pressurize” the Chinese government to settle it given that chances are left till the opening of Beijing Olympics in early August and to disrupt the torch relay, it is extremely stupid for them to do so, and things would run counter to their desires.

Many netizens issued a warning. The few Tibet independence elements have a wishful thinking. The Olympic torch does not belong to China alone, but belong all the more to the world. Tibet independence elements now stand in the opposite to the peace-loving people across the world, and their evil deeds are sure to be subjected to denunciations by people worldwide.

The Olympic sacred fire is a vital, important symbol of human values with respect to the modern Olympic Games. Every torch relay represents a spread of human civilization. It is precisely because of this sense that people worldwide have all along regarded the Olympic torch relay as a lofty, sacred ceremony.

People will never forget that soccer star Pele was seen with tears swelling in his eyes when he held up the Olympic torch at a torch relay ceremony in Athens four years ago and, people still remember very well to date that Muhammad Ali, the boxing great, who lit the flame at the 1996 summer Olympics in Atlanta, the U.S., passed the torch with hands shaking from Parkinson’s diseases to an Olympic gold medal figure. When Ali hoisted the Olympic torch, people became aware the true meaning of torch relay – to spread the ideals and the spirit of Olympic Games, and pray for the justice, peace, understanding and friendship for the humankind. So any deeds to interfere with and sabotage the Olympic sacred fire constitutes not only a blaspheme of the Olympic spirit and but a grave challenge to the human civilization.

“The violence for whatever reason is not compatible with the values of the torch relay or the Olympic Games,” as International Olympic Committee (IOC) President Jacques Rogge has said. The Olympic torch has illuminated the bright future of humanity and also reflects upon the”true colors” or essence of the so-called”cause” and”movement” of the Dalai Lama clique. Those pranks of theirs with an attempt to impose pressures upon China and discredit the country by the means to disrupt the torch relay are simply a futile effort.

By People’s Daily Online and its author is He Zhenhua

[Honestly–Posting this makes me feel very dirty, very angry, and very… ashamed. But, I felt it my duty to post the other side of the coin. And here it is]