It’s impossible now to sort out truth from lies from spin from judicious editing in Tibet. Depending on who’s talking, huge numbers of innocent Tibetans were killed by over-zealous Han police… or innocent Han bystanders were killed by a violent Tibetan mob… or the death toll is much lower than believed, those names never existed at all. Depending on who you read, either the Chinese media is covering up something to make China look good or the Western media is making up something to make China look bad.
China calls whatever happened in Tibet last month an attempt by splittist groups to separate Tibet from Chinese control.
And everyone’s buying it. Even Westerners who scoff at Chinese media, who laugh at phrases like the “Dalai clique”, who can’t believe those gullible Chinese just naively accept whatever they’re told, are suddenly focused on Tibet and Tibetan independence.
A few weeks ago, there were many issues with China’s choices, but now, it’s all about Tibet.
Why is it? Is it just that “Free Tibet!” looks better on a poster than “Use your soft power to lean on the Sudan” or “Make good on environmental reforms”? Is it just that Tibet is a more romantic cause than quality control on exports? It can’t be personal relevance, most of us have never been to Tibet, but there’s something in your arm’s reach right now that was made in China. Is it the Dalai Lama’s charisma that gets protesters for Tibet… or is it because Richard Gere’s doing it?
Tough, complicated issues seem to be forgotten in favor of a cursory understanding and a Free Tibet shirt.
And that might be the greatest spin of all.