Tuesday, April 22, 2008

No Conversation on BBC

BBC's "World Have Your Say" called again this afternoon, inviting me to join a "conversation" between Chinese and Tibetan students, with Grace Wang's help in mediating. I was interested, but because they gave me only a 20-minute advance notice, I wasn't able to make it. I did try to listen to the recording on their website later. The program runs for 2 hours; I listened for about 45 minutes and gave up – there was simply no conversation whatsoever, albeit some good questions from the audience.

Among the participants, besides the BBC mediator and Grace Wang, there were two Chinese students, a half-Tibetan, and a Tibet-born Ph.D. student from India, all studying in London. From beginning the panel did not go well. Grace Wang spent too long trying to describe her ordeal, but after 10 minutes still hadn't got to the point how she and her parents in China were harassed. The BBC mediator had to politely (as far as I could tell, he was most polite to Grace) steer her to the point by interrupting and asking whether the Chinese government helped her parents defend themselves against attack. The answer was expected: No, the police knew there was damage done to her parents' house, but did not know who did it. A poor excuse apparently. And again the expected reaction from the BBC guy and the Tibetans – untiredly condemning "China has no basic human rights!"

Then Grace Wang tried to point out that China not only has no respect for human rights, it has no respect for its citizens' rights. She kept saying – whether because of her ignorance of the Tibetans' feelings or her insensitivity – that "We are all Chinese; Han Chinese and Tibetans are all Chinese," which was bound to make the exiled Tibetans furious. ("Well, no," the Tibetan, or the half one, protested right away.) It was so ironical that BBC invited this victim of her fellow Chinese to be the main guest in order to further bash China, though they claimed to have sought her help "for both sides to find a common ground," and ended up only widening the crack. Grace and the Tibetan student got into argument about the identity issue, and the BBC moderator had to interrupt again.

Next, the BBC guy wanted the participants to talk about China's blocking of foreign media, and one of the Chinese students made a stupid (really stupid) defense: "This is for the safety concern of the Western journalists!" (Couldn't the BBC find a more intelligent Chinese student? There are plenty of them.) The same student then began to list the benefits Tibetans received from the Chinese government, including a railway to Tibet. His way of arguing by ignoring the feelings of the other side is quite common in what I see from the Chinese internet.

The Indian Tibetan wasn't being any smarter. He claimed that the railway was built by prisoners of the Cultural Revolution. Such nonsense. Apparently he had no idea when the railway was built.

At one point someone mentioned how Tibetans suffered during the Cultural Revolution. Grace Wang made a good point that all people in China suffered then. "It was the Cultural Revolution," she said.

An audience called in and made comment on China's civil rights (don't remember what he said), and the BBC moderator asked Grace Wang to respond. Grace tried to say that there should be equal civil rights between the Han Chinese and the Tibetans (which I happen to agree), however she stammered and didn't finish the sentence, and the moderator came to her rescue by announcing a break. ("I need to improve my English," Grace tittered. "Your English is fine," the BBC guy said.)

After the break, the students got into arguments on who caused the riots, the Tibetan monks or the Chinese government. The Indian Tibetan (Ph.D student in Economics), who insisted many Tibetans got killed or beaten up by doing a peaceful demonstration, lost his temper and kept shouting, using his voice volume to suppress every feeble attempt at rebuttal from the Chinese student (poor guy, who did not have a higher voice, therefore). "You listen to only the Chinese government!" The Indian Tibetan roared. He didn't seem to realize that, by the same token, he only listened to the Dalai government.

The BBC moderator seemed to enjoy this one-side overwhelming scene for a while. He eventually raised his next question about Chinese's criticism on BBC's biases. "How did they even know we have biases? The Chinese government blocked us!" Well, that was again a stupid one. For a moment I couldn't figure out what was his real motivation – was it a rhetorical question trying to prove the BBC's unbiased? Or was he suspecting China did not succeed blocking the BBC? In any case, didn't this guy even know that there are a huge number of Chinese students studying all over the world, including London? And there are such things exist as email and the internet?

An audience called in and said that he visited China last summer and was able to download files from BBC site. This really annoyed the moderator. He shouted at the caller: "I'm telling you, I'm not asking you! It is a fact that China blocked BBC! Two weeks ago!" This anger took the poor caller by surprise and he mumbled, "Well…I only know about last summer…" and the moderator hung up on him.

Another caller asked about Tibet's serfdom before the 1950s and whether the serf's were better off because of China's action. (A very good question - I wanted to know the answer, too.) The Indian Tibetan replied, "Tibet wasn't perfect, but the Chinese replaced the Tibetan upper class with the CCP upper class!" He said if Tibet needed reform, it should be carried out by the Tibetans, in their own pace, not by the Chinese. That might be the best argument I'd heard so far, however he never did answer the question. But by the same token, if China needs reform on its human rights issues, shouldn't the West let it develop on its own pace as well?

Any how, there was shouting but no conversation, and there were more stupid arguments than intelligent ones. I lost patience and could not go beyond 45 minutes. I do hope the second hour went better, but I doubt it. Good that I wasn't there. #


Anonymous said...

I also listend that talk, have to say that I am not impressed by the presenter at all!

He gave more chances to the Tibean students and Grace Wang, while tried to bash down Chinese students.

He didn't mentioned that there had four thounsands chinese studens demonstrated in London on 19th of April to show their angers on unbalanced reports. These are the students what have comprehensive access the both sides of arguments, and came to conclusions themselves that Chinese were not treated fairly in West media.

I am very very disappoitned with the BBC and their so call 'fair' reports on Tibet.

Well done Alastair Campbell that suceesfully sent BBC reporters to journlist school and they deserve further education!

Xujun said...

Thanks for commenting, Xinyuan. The BBC was/is obviously biased. And I really don't see the point to have a bunch of ignorant students argue against each other who based their opinions on hearsays and propaganda. Why doesn't the BBC host a discourse between well-researched scholars instead?

If Chinese students want to fare better in such a debate, they should do more research, not just follow government's official lines. I recently saw a post on a Chinese website by someone cyber-named "nter," and thought he had some clever arguments based on research. Here's the link: http://www.mitbbs.org/article_t/Military/31218148.html

Anonymous said...

Thanks. Good Post. I added you to my blog as a link.


Xujun said...

Thanks, Dale. Will link to your blog as well.

Unknown said...

Well said, shame on BBC, all that resources, educated and acquired intelligence, and free media and pretty much everything else in this prosperous society, they are as ignorant as perhaps people from a deveoping country with no access to BBC...


Anonymous said...

Hi there,

Here is a good resource for intelligent commentary, I find... You reminded me of this in what you said about the uneducated panel. I didn't see the BBC thing but I saw them addressing the crowd of anti BBC protesters on youtube. The reporter spoke to 'Becky' and finally the BBC lady said that it was not fair that their "bias" is criticized because they are not allowed to look in Tibet. Anyway, it's hard to know what Chinese people think because the CCP propaganda does play quite a role in their opinions. i really don't like that because it is not fair to Chinese people, they aren't taken seriously and they don't understand why...

here is the good tv panel, probably better to watch it on Itunes. Check out my blog if you like and tell me what you think.:http://tinyurl.com/2bca6o

Rocking Offkey said...

Very Interesting bit.
So, that's Grace Wang is doing right now. Is she enjoying her 15 minutes of fame?

But, why's this blog called inside-outside China? It's not centered around China as far as I can see. ;)

Xujun said...

Rocking Offkey -

The aim of this blog is to report and comment on China-related issues as well as literary topics either inside or outside China, thus the blog title. At present, most of the literary stuff posted is in the US, but I'm planning to report more about Chinese literature. I already have something in the works, it's just that I'm busy and translation takes time.

Carry Anne -

I'd love to visit your blog, but the link you gave did not work.

Ying -

Thank you for the comments. The problem is that when someone is biased, he doesn't see it himself. Open minds are hard to find.

Anonymous said...

Another caller asked about Tibet's serfdom before the 1950s and whether the serf's were better off because of China's action. (A very good question - I wanted to know the answer, too.)

The Japanese said the same about China.