Below, the ledes from two New York Times stories concerning ethnic uprisings in Western China, separated by 16 months.
First, the lede to Jim Yardley’s “Protestors clash with police in Tibetan capitol,” published March 14, 2008
BEIJING — Violent protests erupted Friday in a busy market area of Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, as Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans clashed with Chinese security forces. Witnesses say the protesters burned shops, cars, military vehicles and at least one tourist bus.
[It continues in the next paragraph …]
The chaotic scene marked the most violent demonstrations since protests by Buddhist monks began in Lhasa on Monday, which was the anniversary of a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. The ongoing protests have been the largest in Tibet since the late 1980s, when Chinese security forces repeatedly used lethal force to restore order in the region.
Next, the lede to Edward Wong’s “Ethnic Clashes in Western China are said to kill scores,” published July 6, 2009. [UPDATE7/7: link connects to a new story; old story deleted. See end of this post for additional details and commentary.]
BEIJING — The Chinese state news agency reported Monday that at least 140 people were killed and 816 injured when rioters clashed with the police in a regional capital in western China after days of rising tensions between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese.
[Skipping a paragraph, we get …]
The rioting broke out Sunday afternoon in a large market area of Urumqi, the capital of the vast, restive desert region of Xinjiang, and lasted for several hours before riot police officers and paramilitary or military troops locked down the Uighur quarter of the city, according to witnesses and photographs of the riot.
I don’t know enough about the current situation to comment upon it with any authority. However, I do know something about reporters and bias, and though I’m not pointing any fingers, I’ve been struck – in the early days of this protest – how restrained and comparatively unsympathetic the foreign press coverage of the Uigher uprising has been in light of the highly sympathetic reporting on the Tibetan uprising last year. One explanation, and a fairly reasonable one, I think, is that the foreign media, like many in the West, simply harbors more sympathy for Tibetan Buddhists than Uigher Muslims. But I’m sure there are others, and I’d be interested to hear them. Comments are open now closed.
[UPDATE 7/7: The July 6 NYT story to which this post originally linked has been deleted. The link still works, but it now connects to an entirely new story, “China Locks Down Restive Region After Deadly Clashes,” by Edward Wong. The original story is no longer on the NYT site. And so we’re left to wonder: why was it removed?
For what it’s worth, the new lede – as 5:06 PM, Shanghai time, refers to “rival protesters.”
Is it typical for the NYT to erase ledes and headlines wholesale from their site? If the NYT were a straight-up blog, they would’ve just added new material to the end of Wong’s report. But as a newspaper, it seems to me that they have some obligation, nay responsibility, to maintain a record of their coverage as it was published – especially when the older story will continue to exist in archived form across the internet in perpetuity. With that in mind: the NYT’s original story can still be found online in a few odd corners, such as this one.]
[UPDATE II 7/7: Wong’s July 6 NYT story might not be available, still, but his July 5 story is still on the site (it appeared in the print edition). Entitled, “Riots in Western China Amid Ethnic Tension,” and the lede reads:
BEIJING — At least 1,000 rioters clashed with the police on Sunday in a regional capital in western China after days of rising tensions between Muslim Uighurs and Han Chinese, according to witnesses and photographs of the riot.
[It continues …]
The rioting broke out Sunday afternoon in a large market area of Urumqi, the capital of the vast, restive desert region of Xinjiang, and lasted for several hours before riot police officers and paramilitary or military troops locked down the Uighur quarter of the city. The rioters threw stones at the police and set vehicles on fire, sending plumes of smoke into the sky, while police officers used fire hoses and batons to beat back rioters and detain Uighurs who appeared to be leading the protest, witnesses said.]