Women delegates protesting at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conferenceWomen delegates gagged to symolize China's silencing of Tibetan women's voices at the Beijing conference


From the outset, the TWD aimed for broad media exposure of the
issues faced by Tibetan women in their homeland. The TWD was also 
aware that its very attempt to participate in the Beijing Conference
would be met by adamant opposition from China.The TWD was prepared 
to highlight any actions in this regard as an example of China's 
repressive policies and its violation of international standards. 
In order to generate broad media interest, the TWD decided to 
seek media attention early by focusing on local media exposure of
Tibetan women's participation in the preparatory processes on 
the international, regional, national and local levels.As a result,
media portraits of Tibetan women started to appear in local newspapers
and on radio shows. Since the TWD consisted of women from four
continents, nine countries and many more cities, this de-centralised
approach started to build the momentum, which eventually resulted in
 front-page international coverage for Tibet.

A. Leading up to Beijing

The international media paid little attention to the preparatory
process for the UN FWCW until the last global Preparatory Conference
in New York, which was charged with accrediting NGOs for Beijing.
It was at that time that the Conference Secretariat proposed not to
accredit any Tibet-related NGOs.  The TWD responded not only with 
an intensive lobbying effort, but also with press releases to all major
media reporting on UN proceedings.The TWD joined a press conference 
called by another NGO facing exclusion and engaged in press interviews
with the New York Times, the Washington Post and many other prominent 
newspapers.These contacts resulted not only in dozens of news articles 
discussing the exclusion of Tibetans, but also in supportive editorials
in the New York Times and elsewhere. Most importantly, the national 
and international media became aware and interested in the access 
issues faced by Tibetan women and started to follow the issue until 
its resolution by ECOSOC in Geneva, one month before the opening of 
the Beijing Conference. 
Throughout the Preparatory Conferences the TWD actively sought out
media contacts, small and large, and distributed reports on the 
condition of Tibetan women inside Tibet. During the last Preparatory 
Conference the TWD distributed a colourful attractively designed
press/information kit to the media. 

During the five months preceding the Beijing Conference, national 
and international media attention increased dramatically.Much of the
media attention focused on the obstacles women faced due to barriers
erected by China, and included articles on the issues faced by 
Tibetan women. Local media increasingly focused on individual women
bound for Beijing.Having laid the groundwork during the preceding 
year,Tibetan women were sought out by the local media for interviews
and panel discussions on the upcoming conferences.
Many articles in the press deplored China's handling of the visa issue
and discussed the likelihood that Tibetans would be denied visas.
As planned, several days prior to the TWD's departure for China, the
TWD sent press packets to the permanent press representatives of
the international media in Beijing, as well as to the delegates' local
and national media.This put the international press in Beijing 
on notice that Tibetan women-in-exile would arrive in Beijing despite
China's efforts to keep them away. Once all members of the TWD who 
had obtained visas had arrived safely in Beijing, the TWD issued a 
press release announcing its arrival and intentions to discuss the
issues facing Tibetan women in Tibet.

B. The NGO Forum and the Official UN Conference

Starting with the first day of the NGO Forum in Huairou, the TWD
was inundated with requests for interviews from the world press.
Tibetan women's mere presence in China was major news. China's
surveillance, harassment, intimidation and assault on the TWD 
generated press interest throughout the Forum. The TWD's silent
and "gagged" demonstration on the second day of the Forum provided 
the media with the heart wrenching images which appeared the following
day on the front pages of many major newspapers.Tibetan women, 
through their dignified, non-violent silent action, came to symbolise
for many the stark contrasts between the good faith, cooperative 
intentions of the great majority of Conference participants and 
their host's repressive action.

Many press members asked to be kept up to date on the TWD's activities
at the Conference, which the TWD did.  Liaison with the press was 
also much aided by the press credential of one TWD member. On the
opening day of the official governmental Conference the TWD issued
a second press release calling for a press conference. This well 
attended press conference focused on the issues faced by Tibetan 
women in Tibet. From the resulting coverage, it appears that the 
press was more interested in the harassment and intimidation at the
Forum than the substantive issues inside Tibet. Press was present 
at virtually every event organised by the TWD throughout the NGO Forum
and official UN Conference. They therefore were able to capture much
of the harassment, intimidation and assaults to which the TWD was 

The activities of the TWD were closely followed by the Voice of 
America (VOA), which was represented in Huairou and Beijing.
VOA broadcast many of the interviews with TWD members live to Tibet.
This resulted in a much needed direct connection between the Tibetan
women from exile participating in the conferences and Tibetans inside
Tibet.VOA also provided live broadcasting of the meeting between 
His Holiness the Dalai Lama and a representative of the TWD in 
Washington DC, immediately following the UN FWCW. Many press 
representatives were particularly interested in interviewing 
members of the TWD who were from their country or spoke their 
language. At the official Conference, the TWD was invited to hold
a joint press conference with Scandinavian parliamentarians, 
which drew substantial press attention. The press was particularly
interested in the successful attempt of Chinese security agents in 
breaking up the press conference before its scheduled ending time.

C. Lessons and Accomplishments

The overall press coverage of the TWD in Huairou and Beijing 
surpassed all the delegates' wildest expectations. Interruption of the
TWD's workshop and harassment of the TWD were aired for several days
on prime time television and radio news programmes throughout the world.
The front page coverage in the International Herald Tribune, the 
New York Times, The Sydney Morning Herald and many other newspapers
was rewarding. However, the TWD was disappointed that the press 
focused more on the sensationalism of the harassment in Huairou, 
than on the horrifying problems faced by Tibetan women in their 
homeland. While the TWD distributed factual reports, and addressed
these issues in its press conference, it did not have short fact
sheets with easily usable quotations.  Such point-form information
sheets may have aided in focusing the coverage more on the substantive 

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© Copyright Tibetan Women's Delegation, April 1996.