#Human Rights
The BBC, Mosaic Films, Sevenstones Media
United Kingdom

In 2008 the BBC shamefully broadcast, 'A Year in Tibet', as Tibetans, who took to the streets and demanded independence for their nation, were being gunned down by Chinese security forces.

Covert Photograph of Tibetans Shot at Ngaba-16th March 2008

"Eight dead bodies brought into Ngaba Kirti Monastery according to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy. The bodies were brought in from the protest scene in Ngaba, Kham (so-called Sichuan Province). Sources say at least "30 Tibetans felled" after armed troops shot indiscriminately into the peacefully protesting Tibetans." (Released By TCHRD-Sunday, March 16, 2008 19:35]

Mr Richard Klein, BBC commissioned Mosaic Films and Sevenstones Media to produce 'A Year in Tibet', which BBC Four first screened at 21.00 on 6th March 2008, the final episode shown on 3rd April.

The series was produced and written by Mr. Peter Firstbrook. The locational Director was Ms. Sun Shuyun, a Chinese writer and film-maker. The film claims to be an 'observational documentary', following a year in the life of Gyantse, Tibet's third largest town.

The contents and style of this programme portray a seemingly contented and thriving culture, untouched it would appear by the odious excesses of Communist Chinese occupation. It is a troubling achievement for a film crew to document daily living in such circumstances, yet fail to include any reference to the cultural and political oppression, which has operated inside Tibet since China's invasion in 1950.

The timing of this series too was curious, coming just several months before Beijing launched the 2008 Olympic Games, an event which attracted international concern and oppostion relating to China's appalling human rights record, and its brutal suppression of the Tibetan and Uyghur people.

Such political realities do not feature in 'A Year in Tibet', which carefully avoids any issues of sensitivity by assembling a stereotypical and idyllic image of life inside Tibet. Internationally there is genuine and widespread concern at the plight of Tibet. Such opinion will be surprised and disappointed to note a film which lacks fundamental journalistic standards, such as balance, independence, accuracy and critique.

In 2009 the communist Chinese regime allowed it to be screened across China, thus confirming the film's propagana credentials. More here: http://tibettruth.wordpress.com/2009/07/19/communist-china-to-screen-bbc-whitewash-of-tibet/

We, the undersigned, wish to express our concern regarding the content, style and motivation of the BBC Four series, 'A Year In Tibet'.

We consider that in omitting important factual information, this programme grossly misrepresents the political and cultural situation experienced by Tibetans. In a number of areas it was lacking critical material. For example Gyaltsen Norbu, an innocent stooge selected by Communist China as Tibet's new 'Panchen Lama' was given considerable exposure, whilst the candidate formally recognised by the Dalai Lama, was virtually ignored, with no reference to the fact that this individual remains in 'protective custody'. This resulted in a selective and distorted presentation of an issue of critical cultural importance to the people of Tibet, and one which would have attracted the interest and concern of the BBC's stake-holding public.

To claim that the makers of this series were "permitted to film in Tibet unsupervised" yet produce a film which glosses-over areas of 'sensitivity' is a puzzling inconsistency and entirely unconvincing. Take the following comments of filmaker, Jezza Neumann, who shot UK Channel Four's Documentary 'Undercover Tibet':

"If you want to film in Tibet then you have to apply for permission, and if you're given permission then you'll be allocated a state-appointed minder – so the only way to make a film of the truth successfully is to go undercover".

Within a totalitarian state, such as Communist China, social, political, and cultural control is an endemic and corrosive fact, particularly within Tibet, a region Beijing views with an acute sensitivity.

Such facts would be known to the locational Director, Ms Sun Shuyun, although one wonders, given her seeming affinity with the Communist Chinese authorities, if it was ever possible to realise even the mildest criticism or balanced assessment. It may well be that Ms Shuyun is a card-carrying member of the Chinese Communist Party?

Whatever the facts, it's difficult to to understand why this person was chosen for such a critical and presumably influential post, where independent objectivity would be vital. Imagine producing a similar project on the lives of Palestinians, and appointing a non Arab-speaking, orthodox and right-wing Israeli as Director. Under such a circumstance could one ever expect a film that would meaningfully examine, challenge or question some of Israel's odious activities?

Perhaps Ms Shuyun's contribution explains why, after some 39 minutes the programme announced "...although China has had a single child policy since the 1970s, the law has never been applied to ethnic Tibetans" .

This fact-free comment, which bears an uncanny resemblence to official Chinese propaganda, flies-in-the-face of a wealth of information that documents coercive birth control abuses within Tibet. As documented in the television documentary 'Undercover Tibet', and reported by Jezza Neumann, such abuses are all too real for Tibetans.

"China maintains that it doesn't implement its one-child policy in minority regions such as Tibet, but we discovered that this wasn't true. One woman told us how she'd been subjected to a forced sterilisation. The secret police broke into her house and said they would take all of her belongings if she didn't go with them. Aspirin was the only anaesthetic she was given before they cut her open." (The Independent 31st March 2008)

These medical atrocities have been reported upon by bodies such as Amnesty International, members of the United States Congress, Optimus, Foreign Affairs Select Committee, Human Rights Watch, Independent Tibet Network, Asia Watch and the British Medical Association. Such material has been given meticulous coverage and examination in reports such as 'Children of Despair' and 'Orders of the State' (ITN 1992 and 2000 respectively). Information, eyewitness testimony and personal accounts continue to emerge, all of which detail forced sterilisations of Tibetan women, yet none of this material seems to have attracted the interest of any of the parties involved with this project.

The 'Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) Birth Control Leading Group Document-Number Six', reveals the degree of coercion relating to 'birth-control' imposed across the so-called TAR by the Communist Chinese authorities, beneath the deliberately vague and extenuating terminology, one can easily recognize two basic facts. Tibetans are indeed subject to China's notorious population control 'measures', and furthermore the methodology employed features a draconian spiral of coercive measures, including forced sterilisations. Chapter two, item nine states:

"At the heart of agricultural and nomadic areas, must stick to the principles of relying mainly on propaganda education, voluntary and offering service, advocate fewer births quality births..First start propaganda testing work and then gradually widen the scope on that basis"

An official document from the 'Ganzi Tibet Autonomous Prefecture Committee for Birth Control' includes the 'Communist Party Central Committee Document Number 9', states:

"In order to raise the economic and cultural standard and national quality in the minority areas, birth control must also be implemented among minorities".

These chilling euphemisms, so reminiscent of the eugenic lexicon within Nazi Germany's sterilisation laws, barely conceal the traumatising brutalities such official law presages for Tibetan women. Such a shameful willingness to misrepresent the harrowing reality of birth control, as imposed upon Tibetans, hardly conforms to independent or factual journalism.

Furthermore, in promoting a warped image of life in Gyantse, which included no reference to the notorious Gyantse Detention centre, your film is affirming a deceit of equal stature to the assertion that 'Hitler did not gas Gypsies or Jews'. To claim therefore that you have enabled a factual insight into the ordinary lives of Tibetans in Gyantse is an astonishing distortion. Moreover it suggests a naievity of worrying proportions, that considered a film crew would be able to freely document the genuine daily circumstances prevailing in Gyantse. Given the totalitarian nature of the occupying Chinese communist regime, it is extremely difficult not to view this project as anything but a politicaly motivated sanitisation.

In selectively omitting such factual information, on the basis that this series is 'observational', and not a detailed historical or political examination, the programme's stated objectives are exposed as disingenuous, to echo official Communist Chinese propaganda that Tibetans are exempt from birth-control is itself blatant political comment!

Furthermore, such sophist posturing does not absolve the programme's makers and broadcasters from an obligation to ensure viewers a balanced and informed coverage, of all relevant issues. What is one to make of this?

It would seem, in relation to Communist China, that a certain policy operates within the BBC, one that avoids areas of particular concern or embarrassment to Beijing's Politbureau.

Given the degree and nature of concern expressed towards Tibet, amongst the British public many will be uneasy to note a programme which, in its timorous and selective misrepresentation of life in occupied Tibet, appears more concerned with deferring to the sensitivities of UK foreign policy with China, than in creating a factual exposure of the situation facing the people and culture of Tibet.

This opening episode can only have pleased the Communist government of China, and perhaps those within the Foreign Office whose fossilised policy of appeasing China at all costs, callously ignores the brutal realities of forced sterilisation of Tibetan women.

We the undersigned urge the BBC to ensure that future programmes on Tibet should not dilute, marginalize or distort the political and cultural reality of life inside Tibet.

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