Written by Tang Buxi – May 5th, 2008
There were (at least) two significant protests on Sunday. Both involved Chinese people, and both were significant and interesting in their own ways. That’s where the similarities end.
If you get your news primarily from the New York Times and other Western media, here’s what you saw, and here’s what you missed.
In Chengdu, somewhere between 300-500 (according to organizer estimates) Chinese assembled for a “walk” (散步). The “walk” had a political purpose; it was intended to reflect growing public concern in China about environmental issues. In this case, a new ethylene plant planned for the area is arousing concern. The “walk” is in the same grassroots-driven tradition as previous NIMBY marches: Xiamen, and Shanghai are earlier examples.
The New York Times decided this event was worthy of a story. As did Reuters, and the Associated Press. (As did the Chinese state press.) Since Chengdu is slightly off the beaten path for Western journalists based in China, you have to applaud their dedication in getting the story.
On the same day, on the other side of the planet, anywhere from 4,000 – 15,000 Chinese protesters joined together in Foley Square, right in the heart of New York City. (The 15000 estimate is from Chinese organizers, and 4000 estimate is from exile Tibetan counter-protesters.) This particular protest had been planned since early April, and gave overseas Chinese in the New York/New Jersey area an opportunity to voice their support for the Beijing Olympics, and to express their dissatisfaction with media coverage of the events in Tibet. This protest is also in the same grassroots tradition (as in, no Chinese embassy involvement) as other protests that have sprung up in North America: Toronto, Ottawa, Chicago, Seattle.
If you’ve been reading the New York Times or any other mainstream Western news source, you will certainly have heard of the protest in Chengdu. But you will absolutely not have heard of the protest in the middle of Manhattan itself, despite the fact its scale was anywhere from 10 to 40 times the scale of the protest in Chengdu.
The protest in New York City was heavily covered by the overseas Chinese press (US-based): World Journal, Singtao Daily, etc. But the only English-language, Western coverage has been a dismissive article from the New York Sun which gives us the Tibetan exile count, as well as the rather ridiculous suggestion that perhaps only 450 Chinese had attended. Perhaps Xinhua and the People’s Daily are propaganda devices, but at least they managed to cover both of the protests.
The Chinese protesters in New York report being interviewed by NY Times reporters as well; we can only speculate as to why the editors at the Times decided one story was more news-worthy than the other. For those who increasingly believe the Western media is fundamentally biased, this adds more fuel to the fire.
Below are images and more from the New York City protests. They deserve to be remembered as well:
More available here, including more videos, images, and an opportunity to interact with the organizers and many participants.