Chinese Seethe on Web Over Rare Riots in Tibet
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China's carefully controlled media may have remained largely silent on the unrest in Tibet, but a look at Chinese blogs reveals a vitriolic outpouring of anger and nationalism directed against Tibetans and the West.
China, which routinely censors its news to avoid stoking popular sentiment, has less of a stranglehold over what is posted online, and more than 200 million enthusiastic Internet users.
On Saturday, a rash of angry blog posts appeared after China confirmed deaths in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, and U.S. actor Richard Gere called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics should the authorities mishandle the protests.
"Westerners think they know all about China, telling us that this, that and the other is bad," wrote one blogger, who listed historical reasons justifying Tibet's inclusion as part of China.
"Most foreigners have been brainwashed as far as this issue is concerned," assented another user.
Other blogs were virulently nationalistic.
"If you behave well, we'll protect your culture and benefits," said one blogger, addressing Tibetans in China.
"If you behave badly, we'll still take care of your culture ... by putting it in a museum. I believe in the Han (Chinese) people!"
Many blamed the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner, for inciting the riots.
"Simple monks, simple Tibetans, do they even know what is the driving force behind the push for independence?" said one blog.
The view was echoed by some residents in Beijing, due to host the Olympics in less than six months' time.
"I think that the Chinese government has to cut this cancer out. We can start with the Dalai Lama, and even though we don't have relations with the Dalai Lama, we should arrest those who are behind the riots," said one man surnamed Song.
In striking contrast to the media blackout during the Tiananmen protests in 1989, China's flourishing online chat rooms, bulletin boards and Web logs means citizens have more opportunity to air their opinions publicly, even as censors rush to remove the offending comments mere hours later.
Some Web surfers expressed indignation at the muzzled mainland Chinese press, having only stumbled on reports of the riots while browsing international sites.
"The local papers haven't covered this. Luckily for us there is still online media," said one.
China, which has ruled Tibet since 1950, maintains that the predominantly Buddhist Himalayan region has been traditionally part of the country for centuries, a view taught exclusively at Chinese schools.
Still, while most blog postings appeared to agree with Beijing's official stance, a rare few differed.
"I'm not some big Stalinist, and I don't share the view that Tibet is part of China. Every minority has the right to choose its own path of development," said one blogger who claimed to have lived in Tibet for four years.