China curbs Tibet information flow

China has succeeded in stemming the flow of information out of Tibet in recent days, according to Tibetan activists in India who had relied on e-mails and mobile phone calls to piece together the extent of a Chinese military crackdown on pro-Tibet demonstrations.

Thousands of Tibetan exiles in India received live accounts as protests erupted in Tibet and largely Tibetan regions of China. About 120,000 Tibetans live in exile in India.

But following the military clampdown and the exclusion of foreign media from Tibet last week, e-mails and phone calls have been going unanswered, leaving an information blackout as Chinese forces reputedly continue to arrest Tibetan demonstrators.

The India-based Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy has estimated that at least 70 Tibetans were killed in rioting in Lhasa and protests in other parts of western China. The estimate – more than three times the 22 people that Beijing says were killed – has been based on phone calls, reports and photographs from the region.

Finding out what is happening on the ground is almost impossible, says Urgen Tenzin, the centre’s executive director. Even if phone calls to Tibet are answered, “people are saying, ‘Don’t call. It’s too dangerous,’” he said.

China has sought to control information about Tibet since the crisis erupted on March 10, at first censoring news at home, then shifting to stopping the flow of news leaving the country.

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