On May 25th, Chinese media released stories on the BBC’s decision to broadcast a promotional commercial in December on its World Channel free to help promote Lhasa’s tourism (See article here)
At the West China Counties International Investment and Cooperation Forum held in Hong Kong late April, the BBC World showed great interest in Lhasa’s tourism and promised to make a short film costing 100,000 Yuan on the topic.
“This will be the first time for Lhasa to publicize its tourism worldwide. With this 30-second short film, we hope to enhance Lhasa’s international image, help the world know the city better and attract more people,” said Gao Fu, deputy director of the Lhasa’s Tourism Bureau.
This decision by the BBC must be reversed. By choosing to collaborate with the Chinese government in publicizing Lhasa’s tourism the BBC will only add to the exploitation of Tibetan culture, the marginalization of Tibetans in Tibet by supporting the dominance of Chinese owned businesses and enterprises who overwhelmingly control the tourism industry in Lhasa, and the spread of the Chinese propaganda on Tibet that is administered to the tourists in Tibet.
The tourism industry of Lhasa is a manipulated extortion of Tibetan culture. Tourists are only permitted to see only a Chinese government filtered version of Tibetan history and culture. The true nature of China’s violent invasion, occupation, and exploitation is carefully omitted or denied as lies. Tourists are fed a false portrayal of a happy and prosperous Tibetan people who are accepting of a foreign Chinese government, yet from the spring uprisings of last year we see that this neo-communist-Shangri-La is a mockery of the truth.
As has been reported by Andrew Fischer, a fellow at the London School of Economics and author of “State Growth and Social Exclusion in Tibet: Challenges of Recent Economic Growth,” and also by the Gongmeng Law Research Center’s “investigative report into the social and economic causes of the 3.14 incident in Tibetan areas,” Tibetans are increasingly discriminated and excluded from development or prosperity in their own homeland. Han Chinese outsiders increasingly control the local businesses in Tibet, and recent development strategies implemented by the Chinese government have only intensified this growing problem.
Tibetans inside Tibet are denied basic human rights, such as the freedom of movement and freedom of speech. On September 30th, 2006, Kelsang Namtso, a 17 year old nun, attempted to leave Tibet via the Nangpa La pass and was shot dead by Chinese soldiers. On August 1st, 2007, Runggye Adak at a horse-racing festival in Lithang seized the microphone during a speech and called for the return of the Dalai Lama and the release of the Panchen Lama and Tenzin Delek (a Lama from Lithang who was sentenced to life in prison for alleged involvement in terrorism), and the independence of Tibet. Addak was subsequently arrested and charged with four counts of ‘crimes’ ranging from disruption of law and order to state subversion and sentenced to eight years of imprisonment with deprivation of political rights for four years.
This is the oppressive reality of Tibet tourists and the outside world are not allowed to see. Anytime we have seen the emergence of the real Tibet, we have also seen the Chinese government react by quickly shutting down the activities of tourists and foreign media inside of Tibet and a subsequent fabrication of the events in order to prevent the outside world, and even the Chinese people, from seeing the bleak reality of life in Tibet for Tibetans.
This is a reality that tourist traveling to Tibet must also accept. Those who travel to Tibet must accept the surveillance of plain-clothes Chinese authorities, restriction of travel to certain areas of Tibet, and a denial of the right to speak or express themselves freely.
As citizens of freedom-loving nations who enjoy the rights of liberty we cannot accept the denial of the basic human rights and liberties of Tibetans inside Tibet, we cannot accept the BBC’s support for the perpetuation and expansion of the exploitation of Tibetan culture and the marginalization of the Tibetan people, and we also cannot travel to Tibet as tourists and accept the denial of our own basic human rights and liberties. If we were to do so we would not only accept and validate this injustice but we would also cheapen the value of our own liberties that so many have fought for and so many around the world still fight for.