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Former German chancellor, expert express concern about Western misconceptions regarding Tibet, China

Source: Xinhua | 04-16-2008 11:58

Special Report:   3.14 Tibet Riots

BERLIN, April 15 (Xinhua) -- Former German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and a leading German expert have voiced their concern over many westerners' misconceptions regarding China, and some Western media's biased and misleading coverage of the recent events in Tibet.

"We see China in a totally false way, " Schmidt said in a recent interview with German newspaper Westdeutschland Zeitung.

The former chancellor's remarks came as major German television channels and newspapers adopted an anti-China tone, even with false pictures and deliberate selection of video grabs.

Western hostility towards China is largely rooted in the strong perception of many westerners that China should develop according to the "democratic mode" represented by the United States or Western European countries, said Schmidt.

"Why should it have to?" he asked.

Schmidt, who has visited China 15 times, said many westerners have no idea about China's history and culture, or the complicated political and social issues that the country is dealing with, including Tibet.

China is the world's "historic experiment" and "it has to go its own way," he said.

"I do not say this," he added, "to defend the current Chinese communist leaders or to make the political situation (there) look better."

"There is no judgment in what I have said so far," said Schmidt.

Eberhard Sandschneider, director of the Research Institute of the German Council on Foreign Relations, said many westerners' fear of China is largely attributed to their uncertainty about what effect the country's rapid development may have on the Western world.

"I firmly believe it makes no sense to have fears about China," said Sandschneider, one of the most prominent China experts in Germany.

China does have social, economic and environmental issues, some of them deeply challenging, he said.

Germany and other nations should stop their interference in China's affairs as long as what China does is "legitimate," Sandschneider said on an online chatroom of Germany's ARD TV.

"It is too cheap at this point to only criticize China instead of raising questions about ourselves, something we must do to deal with global challenges," he said.

Referring to a potential boycott of the Beijing Olympic Games, Sandschneider said it makes more sense in the long term to engage with China, including on the Olympics, rather than reacting emotionally to what happened in Tibet, which has long been a part of China.

Adrian Geiges, a correspondent for the German weekly Stern, said in a recently published story entitled "Dalai Lama is no innocent angel" that he was "outraged" by the one-sided perception of many Westerners regarding Tibet.

What happened in Tibet, including arson and assaults on innocent civilians, was "racial violence," which can by no means be justified, said Geiges, who was among the few foreign journalists in Tibet during the violent unrest in March.

"However, many westerners are under the impression that the Chinese attacked the Tibetans," he said. "Where does this misunderstanding come from?"

One of the reasons, Geiges said, is the idealization of the Dalai Lama and Tibetans, who many westerners believe are innocent and non-violent and should receive sympathy for the alleged human rights violations.

However, the violent and deadly attacks on civilians by the rioters have instead "violated the human rights of the Han Chinese," said Geiges.

Moreover, Tibet was no paradise under the rule of the Dalai Lama, the German journalist pointed out.

About 95 percent of the Tibetans under the rule of the Dalai Lama were serfs who were not even allowed to learn to read or write, he said.

The Dalai Lama, who has been traveling around the world since going into exile in 1959, has managed to convince many westerners that the Chinese government was responsible for the so-called "cultural genocide" in Tibet, which did not happen.

In this sense, "the Dalai Lama is no innocent angel but a successful diplomat," Geiges said.

The deliberate distortion of the recent unrest in Tibet by Western media has raised grave concerns abut professional ethics as well as its potential political and social repercussions across the world.

The Chinese public is venting its spleen online over some Western media groups' inaccurate reports about the Tibet riots.

Various inaccurate photos from Western media claiming to portray the Lhasa riots of March 14 have been collected and uploaded onto the Internet by some Chinese overseas students.

The collection comprises dozens of pictures and footage broadcast by well-known Western media outlets, with netizens highlighting the misleading captions accompanying the images.

The Germany-based RTL TV and N-TV have made corrections on their websites on March 23 and 24 respectively, and also apologized to the public.

The Washington Post published an editor's note on March 24, saying the caption for an earlier version of a slideshow on the Tibet riot was incorrectly associated with a photo from Nepal where Nepalese uniformed police were dispelling Tibetans. The caption on the new version was corrected.

On, netizens continue to pressure Western media, including CNN and BBC, to apologize to their Chinese audience.

(By Jin Jing)


Editor:Zhang Ning