Sunday, 17 July 2011

Disseminating Half Truths

China Daily is doing some interesting spinning these days.

On Thursday it published an intriguing opinion piece with the headline "Tiananmen Square Massacre a Myth".

This is probably the first time in decades this English-language state-run newspaper has actually addressed the events of June 4, 1989 in any way.

Instead of silence on the black mark in modern Chinese history, China Daily is actually refuting the horrific event took place. It claims a former Australian diplomat by the name of Gregory Clark wrote an article in the Japan Times saying western media created the "so-called Tiananmen myth".

Through Wikileaks cables Clark says the massacre did not happen in the square. And that's all the China Daily opinion piece says of what Clark writes. It does not go onto with what he says that while people were not shot at on the square, they were killed around it, particularly in Xidan and Muxidi, south and west of the square. And the majority of those killed were not students but workers and residents in the area who were trying to protect the students as tanks were converging onto the square.

So basically China Daily takes a small part of what Clark says and runs with it -- in the opposite direction.

The piece also blames western media for being biased and not getting its facts straight. At the time there was utter confusion and things were so frantic that foreign journalists tried to report what they saw. There wasn't much time to reflect on what was happening.

However, every year when we look back on the anniversary, more and more details emerge about the incident such as the fact that there was no killing of students within the square, but plenty of eyewitness accounts of people shot by live ammunition on the streets leading to the square.

This is Dr Jiang Yanyong's account, the same doctor who was the whistleblower who told the world about the government's attempt to cover up the SARS situation in China:

I was chief of the department of general surgery on June 4, 1989. On the night of June 3, I heard repeated broadcasts urging people to stay off the streets. At about 10pm, I was in my apartment when I heard the sound of continuous gunfire from the north. Several minutes later, my pager beeped. It was the emergency room calling me, and I rushed over. What I found was unimaginable -- on the floor and the tables of the emergency room were seven young people, their faces and bodies covered with blood. Two of them were later confirmed dead by EKG. My head buzzed and I nearly passed out. I had been a surgeon for more than 30 years. I had treated wounded soldiers before, while on the medical team of the PLA railway corps that built the Chengdu-Kunming Railway. But their injuries resulted from unavoidable accidents during the construction process, while before my eyes, in Beijing, the magnificent capital of China, lying in front of me, were our own people, killed by our people's army, with weapons supplied by the people.

Chinese state media are always looking for ways to discredit western media by twisting the words of other foreigners and this is yet another pathetic attempt. The last paragraph of the China Daily article says: "Tiananmen remains the classic example of the shallowness and bias in most Western media reporting, and of governmental black information operations seeking to control those media. China is too important to be a victim of this nonsense".

If China Daily was a reputable news outlet it would have reading Clark's entire article before spinning its own conclusion. But given that it's state media, spinning the "truth" is all it knows.

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