The best laid plans…
The tightly scripted official tour of Tibet for a group of foreign journalists ran amok for 5 mins in Jokhang, Tibet’s holiest temple. Thirty young monks surrounded the tour party and shouted that there was no religious freedom in the region, that the government was lying about who was responsible for the riots that had broken out on March 10., that so-called worshipers in the temple had been shipped in and that paramilitary forces that had surrounded the monastery since the riots that started had withdrawn only shortly before the foreign journalists arrived.
The visiting journalists were then escorted away as security forces surrounded the monks, many distressed and weeping, according to this report by the FT’s Geoff Dyer, one of the journalists on the trip.
By any measure, it was a remarkable act of defiance, as effective as it was courageous.
Xinhua reported it thus:
A tour by overseas reporters to cover the aftermath of the Lhasa riot was interrupted by a group of lamas at the Jokhang Temple on Thursday morning. The tour, however, soon resumed.
More than a dozen lamas stormed into a briefing by a temple administrator to cause chaos.
An officer with the Information Office of China’s State Council, the organizer of the media tour, said the coverage of the reporters went on as scheduled.
Xinhua subsequently reported that Chinese officials said none of the monks involved would face reprisals. It also quoted Tibet’s second ranking official Baema Chilain as saying: “What [the monks] said is not true. They were attempting to mislead the world’s opinion. The facts shouldn’t be distorted.”
This Bystander is reminded of a Polish proverb he once heard in the old Soviet Union: Only the future is certain; the past is always changing.