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Enterprising reporters reveal another China far from Olympic bubble

Slogans reading “Thank the Party, Love the Motherland” and “Uphold Law and Discipline, Rush Towards Prosperity” are posted on the side of a mountain overlooking predominantly-Tibetan Dawu county in southwestern China’s Sichuan province, Feb. 5, 2022. Ahead of the Beijing summer Olympics 14 years ago, Tibet was on fire. Deadly clashes between Tibetans and security forces in Lhasa made global headlines, and for weeks, monks and herders battled bullets and batons.  But in 2022, Tibet has fallen silent, even as the Olympic games come to Beijing for a second time. (AP Photo / Dake Kang)

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Beijing-based enterprise reporter Dake Kang, video journalist Sam McNeil and Taipei, Taiwan, reporter Huizhong Wu delivered two compelling stories far from the hermetically sealed and officially sanctioned Olympic bubble, focusing on marginalized people in Chinese society and official efforts to suppress unflattering media.

AP’s Tibet story grew from an idea by Kang, McNeil and Beijing colleague Emily Wang, who recalled the violent Tibetan protests during and after the 2008 Summer Games hosted by China. They proposed reporting from the ethnic Tibetan region to explore why unrest in the area appears subdued while the northwestern region of Xinjiang, home to predominantly Muslim Uyghurs, now gets all the attention from human rights activists.

Kang traveled to the eastern edge of the Tibetan Plateau in Sichuan Province, gathering material for text, photos and video, but was almost immediately identified by local law enforcement authorities who put him in a car to Chengdu, a 10-hours drive away. Ever resourceful, Kang made his way to Chengdu’s Tibetan quarter and continued reporting. McNeil contributed reporting from afar, and with editing support from the Olympics team they produced an insightful, hard-edged text story and consumer video that reveals the success of Chinese government efforts to subdue Tibetan unrest.

After seeing the Tibet piece, Wu pitched the story of a chained woman — a woman 500 miles from Beijing who was shown in a viral video with a chain around her neck. The woman and her circumstances became an obsession of Chinese social media even as official propaganda efforts tried to keep the focus on freestyle skiing star Eileen Gu and the Olympics.

Wu worked with editor Ted Anthony to produce a story looking at how Chinese authorities tried to block the video. And she revealed another side of China,where creative netizens stay one step ahead of government censors,even deploying their own investigative tactics to keep injustices from obscurity. After shifting official accounts of the chained woman’s situation, Wu produced a follow-up story days later reporting that China had found the woman was trafficked

AP’s Tibet story was unmatched in any format. Other Chinese and foreign outlets covered the chained woman story,but not with the depth and detail of AP.

The stories highlight the outstanding work of staffers outside the Olympic bubble in reporting all aspects of these unusual Olympics, far removed from the slopes and ice.

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