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The Inside Story: Reuters Correspondent Cate Cadell on her exclusive on China expanding mass labor program in Tibet

When Reuters exclusively reported that China is pushing growing numbers of Tibetan rural laborers off the land and into recently built military-style training centers, the story was picked up globally by media organisations and international human rights groups.

A paramilitary policeman stands guard in front of the Potala Palace in Lhasa, Tibet Autonomous Region, China November 17, 2015. The Potala Palace, once the seat of Tibetan government and traditional residence of Dalai Lama, is a 13-storey palace with more than 1000 rooms. More than 1,300 years old, the palace is more than 3,700 meters above sea level and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. REUTERS/Damir Sagolj

Reuters Correspondent Cate Cadell revealed that Beijing has set quotas for the mass transfer of rural laborers within Tibet and to other parts of China, mirroring a program in the western Xinjiang region that rights groups have branded coercive labor. The revelations included that over half a million people were trained as part of the project in the first seven months of 2020 – around 15% of the region’s population. China denied there was forced labour involved in the program and said workers were properly compensated.

Key to the success of the story was Cadell’s in-depth analysis of policy documents, company reports, procurement filings and state media reports that describe the program.

“The key difficulty in reporting on Tibet is that we are unable to go there. Journalists are not permitted to travel in the region independently and speaking to people there can be unsafe for those sources. The silver lining is that there is an abundance of public data and information on policy programs in China if you can navigate the various local language data sources.

I began with some key state media articles and public policy documents shared by a researcher that suggested China was expanding a harsh form of centralized vocational training.

From there, I built out a collection of well over a hundred key documents to support the core points of the story, but that’s not counting the massive amount of supplementary material I reviewed for context or to confirm details like the camp locations. It can be tedious work, but this type of reporting is becoming increasingly important.

Speaking with academics in China who can interpret ethnic policy was also vital in this story. It’s an incredibly sensitive topic here, so that input is invaluable.”

Click here to read Cadell’s full report, “Exclusive: China sharply expands mass labor program in Tibet.”

[Reuters PR Blog Post]

Media contact:

Tumshie Smillie

tumshie.smillie @ tr.com

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