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Tibet's Jokhang Temple fire news censored in China

By Elizabeth Shim
Tibet's Jokhang Temple fire news censored in China
Tibet’s Jokhang Temple was on fire on Saturday, but China is reporting no casualties as of Monday. File Photo by Adrian Bradshaw/EPA

Feb. 19 (UPI) -- News of a major fire at Tibet's most important temple is being partly censored in Chinese media, while the destruction of an ancient terracotta warrior is grabbing headlines in the world's second-largest economy.

Tibet's 1,300-year-old Jokhang Temple caught fire on Saturday, and the incident was quickly captured on video that was then uploaded to social media, The Guardian and Voice of America reported.

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The fire at the UNESCO World Heritage site has likely damaged ancient relics sacred to the Tibetan people, but state-controlled Xizang Ribao, based in Tibet, made no mention of the fire.

CCTV and Xinhua did report the fire but claimed there were no casualties.

State-owned media also did not mention the cause of the fire.

Smoke that could be seen "from miles away across the whole city" is being censored, and the suppression of information "has increased the fear of people that something really serious has happened," said Tibet expert Robert Barnett, according to The Guardian.

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"People are hugely concerned, rightly or wrongly, that the damage might be much more severe than the media is letting on."

The Chinese media's treatment of the fire stands in stark contrast to its more comprehensive coverage of an incident involving the theft of a thumb from a $4.5 million terracotta warrior statue.

The thumb, which was broken off from a statue on display at a Pennsylvania museum, has upset Chinese authorities.

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The theft occurred in December, and Michael Rohana, 24, was charged in early February.

The Chinese government wants tougher actions from the United States taken against the suspect, according to the South China Morning Post.

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