China seizes on Libya for propaganda war against West

Wed Mar 23, 2011 6:22am GMT

By Chris Buckley

BEIJING (Reuters) - A plot to seize Libya's oil. A warning to the world that the West will cling to dominance. A flagrant display of hypocrisy over human rights.

China's ruling Communist Party has countered the West's air strikes against Libya's Muammar Gaddafi with a torrent of such criticisms in state-run newspapers and television, mounting a propaganda campaign to deter the public from any temptation to copy Arab insurrections against authoritarian rulers.

The media drive shows how nervous China's leaders are about any challenges to their firm hold on power, and especially about online comments that Western action in Libya shows the supremacy of international human rights standards, said Li Datong, a former editor at a Chinese party newspaper.

"The Chinese Communist Party sees a big threat in the idea that human rights and democratic demands can outweigh state sovereignty. They want to counter all that," said Li, who was forced out of his job for denouncing censorship.

Even before fighting in Libya broke out, Chinese security forces vehemently attacked online calls for "Jasmine Revolution" gatherings to demand democratic change inspired the popular uprisings in Tunisia and Egypt. Those calls were stifled by censorship and a sweeping security crackdown.

Since the air strikes in Libya began, China's government has pushed propaganda into high pitch to tell the public that the Libyan shows the West cannot be trusted and will put self-interest ahead of principles.

"In recent days, some well-known domestic (Chinese) websites have proposed the weird argument that human rights are more important than sovereignty," said an editorial in the Global Times, a popular Chinese tabloid, on Wednesday.

The Libya air campaign is meant to send "the international political signal that in this world it's the West that calls the shots," said the paper.   Continued...

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