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Not All Media Welcome to Hear 'True' Story on Tibet

Canadian journalists booted from Chinese consulate press event in Toronto
By Matthew Little, Epoch Times
March 21, 2009

TORONTO—At a press conference hosted by the Chinese consulate at a Toronto hotel on Friday, organizers expelled several invited reporters they deemed unfriendly. The event had aimed to counter the regime's reputation of censorship and repression in Tibet.

Organizers barred reporter Danielle Zhu and cameraman David Ren of New Tang Dynasty Television (NTDTV), a Chinese-language television station that frequently reports official Chinese abuse, including repression in Tibet.

Ms. Zhu was at first allowed in to the press conference after showing her invitation. Then organizers noticed the NTDTV logo on Mr. Ren's camera.

“NTDTV, why was this invitation sent to you?” asked one organizer.

The Chinese consulate had sent the invitation to the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, to which both NTDTV and The Epoch Times belong. Journalists at both outlets had replied by email to confirm their attendance in advance of the event. But that didn't satisfy organizers.

“You can’t get in,” an organizer told Ms. Zhu before ordering hotel security: “Take her away.”

An organizer also told police who were present that the two journalists were “against China.”

Coincidentally, Zhu and Ren were also snubbed by the Chinese authorities in 2005 when both were slated to join Canadian Prime Minister Paul Martin on his Asian trip, which included a visit to China.

In January 2005, the Chinese embassy in Ottawa issued and then quickly revoked the two journalists' visas. The embassy offered no explanation for the reversal, despite an objection from the prime minister at the time. 

But the two were not alone on Friday.

This reporter witnessed Sonam Wangchuk, a journalist with Radio Tibet Toronto, being escorted out of the press conference. After your reporter attempted to photograph the incident, organizers elected to remove him instead.
The afternoon conference at the Sheraton Hotel featured the Chinese National People’s Congress Tibetan Delegation, a group of five Tibetan men and women purporting to represent Tibetan life in the mountainous region.

Among the delegates was the Chinese regime’s hand-picked “Living Buddha,” a man named Xin Za Dan Zeng Qu Zha, who the regime promotes as a spiritual leader and representative of the Tibetan people.

The Epoch Times reporter came away with a free DVD made available to media at the event titled, “Tibet Past and Present.” The video portrays communist rule in Tibet as “liberation” and attempts to undermine the credibility of the Dalai Lama.

The video claims, among other things, that the Nobel Laureate would accept human skulls, skin, and intestines as birthday gifts before the regime took control of Tibet.  

In a telephone interview following the event, Mr. Wangchuk, who was raised in Tibet, said it was “sad” to see journalists expelled. He recounted what he witnessed at the press conference.

“They were trying to tell us that right now Tibet is much better than before,” he said.

Mr. Wangchuk said the regime's “Living Buddha” was the lone spokesperson at the event and that he argued life had improved greatly in Tibet under communist rule. Mr. Wangchuk claimed “90 per cent” of what the “Living Buddha” had said about Tibet was not true. 

The “Living Buddha” also reportedly responded to a question from Thomas Saras, president of the National Ethnic Press and Media Council of Canada, by saying he was not under any pressure to toe the communist party line on Tibet.

The event is part of the Chinese regime's effort to rebrand its rule in Tibet. The regime will mark the “50th Anniversary of Democratic Reform in Tibet” this month. It also refers to the anniversary of the failed Tibetan uprising in 1959 as “Liberation from Serfdom Day.”

State media have published thousands of articles online in recent weeks to promote the official line on the anniversaries. The current tour overseas, which included a stop in Washington, D.C. before Friday's event in Toronto, has been used by state media in China to lend credibility to the rebranding campaign.

On Monday, the delegation will be in Canada's parliament for an event with Canadian members of parliament and senators.

Additional reporting by Jason Loftus

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