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Tibet on the Tube: Glasnost in action

‘Dispatches Undercover’ is a series of videos shot by a Tibetan exile, who returns to his homeland 11 years after he risked his life to escape it, writes Deepan Joshi.
Hindustan Times | By You on the Tube | Deepan Joshi
UPDATED ON APR 13, 2008 11:11 AM IST

When news of the Tiananmen Square massacre broke out in 1989, we were in the first year of our college with newspapers and scant television reports as our primary sources of information. Damage control was being done by student leaders whose Left-leaning philosophies were based on the Chinese model.

One of the student leaders gave the most laughable explanation for what had happened. “It’s nothing, it’s just the bourgeois press talking.” I can still remember some credulous faces believing him.

When the erstwhile Soviet Union was undergoing changes, the bemused student leaders that looked up to them explained everything away by using the two most common buzzwords those days: perestroika and glasnost. Yet again, sources of information were limited and open to interpretations.

The Internet completely changed that, and YouTube has taken it a step further. A simple video search using Tibet on the Tube gives you a staggering 44,400 results, not all are relevant to the current crackdown in Lhasa, but there is enough for the world to see.

‘Dispatches Undercover’ is a series of videos shot by Tibetan exile Tash Despa, who returns to his homeland 11 years after he risked his life to escape it. This time he has a British passport and the agenda to secretly film the daily life of ordinary Tibetans under Chinese rule.

Tash says the nomadic way of life is being forcefully wiped out and the regime of terror dominates daily life and makes freedom of expression impossible. Some of it is easily believable especially after China reportedly blocked YouTube usage after videos of the crackdown appeared on the portal.

A V-blogger (video blogger) by the Net name of HellsChina even posted a video reporting the blockage. His MySpace page says that the Chinese government has not commented on its move to prevent access to YouTube. Internet users trying to call up the website were presented with a blank screen.

“I can't access the site here, either, and a quick ping through my network utility does show 100 per cent packet loss, indicating that a block is likely in effect,” Rick Martin, who reports from China for CNET Asia, wrote on his blog. As evidence Rick also included a screenshot taken from his computer.

Not that there is any dearth of videos claiming the contrary. There are numerous videos criticising the linking of politics and the Olympic movement. Development of a wasted hinterland into a more developed place is another argument that is gaining momentum on the Tube.

Whatever the truth, there is no dearth of information. The Tube is perestroika and glasnost in action.

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