I was half way through translating a personal account of the situation in Lhasa by a Han Chinese resident when the inevitable happened - ESWN finished it first. Right now, his post is inaccessible on the mainland because of three keywords that trigger the net nanny: J*khang, Ram*che and P*tala (* = o). This is a strong keyword block - I know of no web-based proxy that can circumvent it. Other bloggers and commenters might like to bear that in mind to prevent their posts being unreadable here. [*This is no longer the case. See update below]
Since the block is a strong one and Youtube has also been harmonized, now is perhaps the time to mention two of the serious proxies that get through to everything, including BBC news video, can handle Youtube and enable you to watch Google videos.
1) The first is maddeningly slow (though one enthusiast assures me it works quickly on his computer) but you need it if you want to download the faster second option. Tor works in Firefox. Once you’ve installed the program on your computer, you will see a red notice at the bottom right of your brower saying “Tor Disabled.” To turn the proxy on, click once on that notice and it will turn into a green “Tor Enabled.” You can now read or watch anything you want, but slowly. Tor also offers high-quality anonymity and privacy, but only if you read, understand and act on the instructions. For most of us that is not necessary since we simply want to get past the blocks.
2) The second, faster option only works in Internet Explorer. I’m not going to name it in full. I’ll refer to it here as U. If you want it, it’s the first result for this search (look for the word Download on the U page). Don’t even bother Googling it on the mainland unless you are using a powerful proxy like Tor. Unlike Tor, U is an executable file that you save onto your computer, but do not have to install. If you decide you do not want it anymore, delete the file. As with option #1, you can read anything or watch anything, though it often messes up Youtube - if that happens, close down IE and U and try again.
If you choose option #2, you should be aware that it is a creation of FLG and financed by the US government. Bear that in mind when deciding whether you want it on any particular computer. Both these proxies function only in one browser. So if you use Tor in Firefox, you can carry on browsing in Internet Explorer while you are waiting for the page/file to download.
Back to the Lhasa riots. At the moment, the authorities appear to have acted with restraint, though that might change. Because of that initial restraint, I found these words from a report by the BBC’s James Reynolds surprising:
Gordon Brown said that he’s very concerned about what’s happening in Tibet. But at the moment there’s no talk of Britain boycotting China’s Olympics this summer in Beijing.
Why, exactly, would the British government talk of an Olympic boycott when it was Tibetan rioters who were beating and killing non-Tibetans in Lhasa? Yes, it can be argued that the riots are reaction to decades of occupation (an idea that most Chinese would strongly reject) but that occupation existed before the riots. If it was not a reason to boycott the Olympics before, why would it be now?
It may emerge that the security forces have shot and killed protesters, but so far the killing and violence seems to have been carried out by the rioters, not the police or military.
In the third picture, the man lying on the ground, possibly dead, appears to be a firefighter. And what was the man with the machete in the first picture planning to do with it? Traveler/blogger Kadfly has this to say:
Yes, the Chinese government bears a huge amount of blame for this situation. But the protests yesterday were NOT peaceful. The original protests from the past few days may have been, but all of the eyewitnesses in this room agree the protesters yesterday went from attacking Chinese police to attacking innocent people very, very quickly. They appeared to target Muslim and Han Chinese individuals and businesses first but many Tibetans were also caught in the crossfire.
He also links to video of a man being attacked. Kadfly’s video on Rapidshare is an extremely large file, but someone has posted at least part of it on Youtube.
From an eyewitness account in The Guardian by a foreigner living in Lhasa:
“Oh my God. Oh no. That’s crazy. One hundred people are trying to stone one man. A man was trying to cross the street with his motorcycle - they were trying to stone him but it’s so crowded I can’t see whether they got him or not.
“The residents are very angry. They are throwing stones at anyone who is Han [Chinese] or from other minorities like the Hui, who are Muslims. It seems like it’s ethnic - like they want to kill anyone not Tibetan.
“I saw three people assaulting a man - I was 50 metres away, but I think he was Chinese. They kicked him and then one man had a knife and used it. He was lying on the floor and the man put the knife in his back, like he wanted to see he was dead.”
Given the highly emotive nature of this subject, the comments thread at Peking Duck is remarkably civilized, with an exchange of different opinions that largely refrains from personal insults. See also ESWN on the problem of finding the truth when two sides engage in often misleading propaganda.
Finally, here’s a translation of a government notice giving rioters until midnight on Monday to turn themselves in, published in the Tibet Daily on Saturday:
Since March 10, 2008, lawless monks and nuns have continually made trouble, doing their utmost to create social turmoil. This was a meticulously planned attempt by the Dalai clique to split Tibet from the motherland, and a political conspiracy to destroy stability, harmony and normal productive life of people of all ethnic groups in Tibet. In particular, on March 14, some lawbreakers used organized and premeditated violent methods including beating, smashing, looting, burning and killing. They set fire to schools, hospitals children’s centers, shops and residents’ homes, violently attacked party and government organs and enterprises, smashed and burned cars, looted goods, murdered innocent ordinary people, and besieged and beat law enforcement personnel. These actions violated the Criminal Law of the People’s Republic of China and constitute criminal offenses. In order to urge the criminals organizing, planning and taking part in beating, smashing, looting, burning and killing to stop their criminal activities, turn themselves in to the police, and encourage the vast mass of the people to actively inform on the criminals, the following special notice is issued:
1. Those who voluntarily turn themselves in to public security and judicial organs before midnight on March 17 may receive light or lighter punishment according to law. Those who turn themselves in and inform on other criminals may avoid punishment according to law. Those who refuse to turn themselves in after that date will be severely punished according to law.
2. Those who protect and shelter criminals, when verified, will be severely punished according to law.
3. Citizens who actively inform on criminals and criminal acts will receive personal protection, commendation and rewards.
March 15, 2008 Tibet Daily
[Update, April 9] This update is a bit overdue. For readers in China, it’s unnecessary, since we already know what we can and cannot access on the Internet without a proxy. But I should mention for the sake of overseas readers that the extraordinarily heavy-handed blocking has eased considerably.