Cadres learn to become spin doctors to handle foreign media in Tibet
Ed Zhang in Beijing
Fifty cadres from ethnic Tibetan areas are being trained as foreign propaganda specialists in an unprecedented three-month programme that is part of China's international public relations campaign.
Commissioned by the Communist Party Central Committee's International Communication Office, it is being held in Beijing, at the Communication University of China. The 50 officials taking part handle the foreign press relations in Tibet and areas with large Tibetan populations in Sichuan, Yunnan, Gansu and Qinghai .
The Southern Metropolis News said: 'Tibet-related news coverage has for a long time been a bottleneck in China's management of the region. This bottleneck has also affected China's overall image in the world.'
At a high-level work conference on Tibet in January last year, Beijing also said it planned to train its own teams of scholars in Tibetan studies and living Buddhas, to help spread information about Tibet and to 'dissipate misunderstandings and biases'.
'Tibetan splittists' used propaganda to smear China and 'China's traditional way of propaganda' was not effective, The Southern Metropolis News said.
The students would be taught to pay more attention to providing details and anecdotes when answering questions instead of giving figures and concepts, it said.
Professor Liu Xiaoying, who teaches international communications at the university, said the cadres were 'a lovely bunch of young people eager to learn about anything new'.
He said it was still too early to assess their performance because the programme would continue until the end of July.
They are being offered five or six subjects, plus seminars and tours.
One seminar, by Beijing municipal information office director Wang Hui, was about the capital's experience in dealing with major events (such as the 2008 Olympics) and public relations crises (such as the severe acute respiratory syndrome outbreak in 2003). The participants 'were all very attentive, and willing to hear about our experience', she said.
Seminars are also being given by scholars specialising in Tibetan history and society and Tibetan Buddhism. The basic approach towards religion, according to Tanzen Lhundup, a researcher with the China Tibetology Research Centre, is that religions were protected by law and would continue to flourish along with the country's development.
'Calling religion 'the people's opium' was a practice in the Cultural Revolution [in the 1960s], and has been discarded a long time ago,' Tanzen Lhundup said.