Fri, Apr 18, 2008 - Page 9 News List

Tibet's supporters use publicity coup to fight oppression

By Stephanie Clifford  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , NEW YORK

Demonstrations in Lhasa in 1987 and 1989 heightened that interest, leading to the creation of many Tibet support groups. While the different groups occasionally coordinated their work, it was on an ad hoc basis.

The groups decided to coordinate their efforts at a conference in 2000, creating the London group to do that. But the group did not have a staff until after receiving financing in 2005 - by which time the Olympics were already a focus of the Tibet groups. The London group hired a full-time Olympics campaign coordinator last year.

Across the street from the Chinese consulate in New York on Wednesday, about 35 protesters from five Tibet organizations had gathered, summoned by text messages and e-mail messages. They were shouting the same slogans that were being shouted across the country in San Francisco, which had been disseminated through e-mail messages and bulletins.

Shakabpa surveyed his fellow protesters.

"You're talking about a handful of people," he said, "but we can really get our message out."

Gene Grabowski, a crisis PR specialist at Levick Strategic Communications who worked on the Chinese toy recalls, said he was not surprised the protesters were winning so far.

"The Chinese government is still new to the challenges and the game of playing on a world stage, and playing on the world stage today doesn't just mean understanding how to control the messages that come out of formal government ministries," he said. "There are the blogs, there are Web sites; there's a whole world of Internet-based communication that the Chinese government still doesn't seem to understand."

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