Blogdai Interviews Kadfly
Who is Kadfly you ask? None but a single young traveler who happened to be in Lhasa when the uprising began. Kadfly's photos were the first and most definitive account of events on the ground during that turbulent time. His reporting of the situation in Lhasa on his blog trumped any official Chinese attempts to stifle coverage. He's been hailed as brave, threatened, applauded and cursed simply for being willing to give as unbiased account of the Lhasa riots as he could. He speaks directly to blogdai below. -=BD
I forwarded your questions to my kadfly e-mail to verify my identity since I post about this e-mail address in this post (along with why I no longer have access to the photos on my SD card). It is also for my own purposes as I would like all blog-related correspondence to now go to this address. (Kadfly@gmail.com) If you need me to make a post or something on the blog to further verify my identity just let me know.
I will try my best to answer your questions below:
It seems the protests by the monks in the days leading up to the 14th led to a response by the Chinese and this response in turn led directly to the riots. The whole thing on the 14th really seemed to kick off with the blockading of the Ramoche Monastery: this seemed to infuriate ordinary Tibetans and the riot began minutes after the Chinese police were dropped off on Beijing Donglu to close the alley leading to the Temple.
Which media side seems to be the worst at fairly representing events as you witnessed them?
I haven't been that exposed to what the Chinese media is reporting, to be honest. But the photo cropping allegations (CNN and the trucks being stoned) and the use of pictures of police brutality from Nepal to illustrate stories about what was happening in Tibet does make me believe the Western media has not tried particularly hard to fairly represent the event. But as I said, I'm not aware of what the Chinese is doing so I cannot really compare the two. That said, I do hold the Western media to a higher standard than their Chinese counterparts, for obvious reasons :P.
Your photos have been picked up (uncredited) by the BBC, CNN and the front page of the New York Times. Some media renderings show only partial aspects of your photos which may imply a meaning that differed from the original photo. What is your opinion/experience with the Western media's use of your material and coverage of the events in Lhasa?
My main concern is how the Western media decided to completely ignore the violence of the protesters and concentrate on the resulting crackdown, which I actually had not witnessed. They used the police shields photo as a sign of Chinese strength, for example, without pointing out that seconds after the photo was taken the Chinese police actually fled for their lives.
As you may have observed, the Olympic torch relay has become a public relations disaster for the Beijing and International Olymice committees. Your coverage of events in Lhasa differed from the official Chinese version of events and may have been a significant catalyst in the torch demonstrations we see worldwide today. Did you ever have a sense of the importance your live coverage of the riots would carry in terms of world events today?
No, and I still don't think it has been very important, to be honest. I think all of this would have happened with or without our photos. Tibetans know this year is their chance to really force the issue.
There are many theories that ethnic Hans were just trying to work and make a living in Lhasa and that the real obstinance resided in the PCC and Chinese administration in Tibet. Do you think such a two-tiered Chinese presence exists in Lhasa?
I really don't think I am familiar enough with Lhasa or Tibet more generally to comment on this. But I think it is plausible: I met an ethnic Han person from Singapore who ran a coffee shop in Lhasa, for example, who I sincerely doubt is trying in any way to crush Tibetan independence. Similarly, I met an ethnic Han person from Hong Kong who was looking to start his own company in Lhasa who would regularly laugh at the official Chinese coverage of the riots.
Internet access was heavily scrutinized during the riots and the Chinese government has threatened to block all connections during the olympics. Did you feel watched or scrutinized during the times you posted to your blog from Lhasa?
At the Yak Hotel we first uploaded photos via the public internet room. A man (I think one of the managers of the hotel) came into this room mid-afternoon, yelled at the girls who worked there for letting us use the computers, and went to each computer and turned them off without saying a single word to any of us. But for some reason (they probably just forgot) they left private internet connections within rooms open so once we had a laptop we were again free to upload photos. As time went on I often felt like people might be listening to my cell phone or reading my blog postings and e-mails but I think this was paranoia more than anything. The internet police were definitely not trying very hard to shut down either internet connections or the cell phone network.
Tibet is scheduled to reopen May 1 to tourists. What will they find in Lhasa?
No. All contact with those who read my blog who I do not know personally has been limited to the comments section with the exception of you and a few journalists.
Did you receive any other significant contacts, invitations or acknowledgements from your coverage?
Only from you :P. I will be receiving some portion of $2800 US from Reuters (a portion is going to our journalist contact who brought my blog to the attention of the major news agencies and negotiated on our behalf) which I will be donating and I have been interviewed by some media outlets.
How was the border crossing into Nepal? We understand security was stepped up significantly, is this true?
No, actually. Security may have been beefed up before the 20th or after (the day we arrived in Zhangmu) but crossing that particular day was extremely easy (and there were no extra officers than was necessary). Everyone in our group was hiding their memory cards and the such but it was completely unnecessary. The Chinese customs people appeared bored if anything and didn't even ask if we had come from Lhasa. It couldn't have been any more ordinary except for the journalists on the Nepalese side.
The world seemed quite taken by your coverage. Perhaps it was because you came off as a concerned traveler who was just caught up in the moment. Do you have any plans to re-visit Tibet? What, if anything, can you tell us about your immediate furture plans?
Yes, I would love to revisit Tibet. I don't have any plans at the moment but I know I will return. I will be finishing my trip in India and flying home at the end of the month.
Good, bad, indifferent or otherwise, is there anything you would like to add?
Not at the moment, but feel free to ask more if you need to.
Hope this helps,