Olympics: Kashgar may be a media test

Coverage of today’s attack on a police station in Kashgar will be important to watch. The coming hours will determine if the government’s more liberal rules on foreign reporters’ travel will be observed or ignored. The policy–which ostensibly allows foreign media to travel and interview people freely–was put into place in January 2007 as part of China’s Olympic pledge to remove restrictions on journalists. It was summarily sidelined when ethnic rioting broke out in Tibet in March, and again after the first few weeks of coverage of the devastating earthquake in Sichuan, when the story moved from a humanitarian crisis to survivors’ anger at the government.


China watchers in Hong Kong say there is a feeling within the Beijing government that completely closing off Tibet in March might have been a bad strategy that led to a “news vacuum” that was going to be filled one way or another by the foreign media. The lesson learned, the feeling here is, that a more lenient approach might have worked to the government’s advantage in Tibet. The lesson might have been learned, but it will still have to be applied. Kashgar might become the test case.

(Reporting from Hong Kong)