Violence has reportedly rocked Tibetan areas of China again this week, with reports of Chinese police firing on Tibetan protesters in Sichuan and killing at least one.
Tibetan rights groups outside of China say Chinese froces turned their guns on unarmed protesters in a remote mountainous area. The protesters had refused to celebrate the Chinese New Year (Tibet celebrates the new year on another calendar, not the traditional Chinese Lunar New Year that opened this week).
China's official Xinhua news agency acknowledged that one person had died in the violence. There the details diverged and Xinhua says rights groups are "distorting" the details of the violence.
The advocacy group Free Tibet says its sources allege as many as 30 people were injured.
And herein lies the crucial problem with reporting on Tibet and getting accruate information. Chinese journalists are constrained by censorship and state-owned media rules. Foreign correspondents require special permits to enter Tibet proper. In cases like this reported violence in a Tibetan area of Sichuan province, journalists are certain to be barred, detained and turned away from reporting on the scene.
So how does one verify the facts of what happened in what was certainly a violent outburst in Tibetan parts of Sichuan province?
Many rely on Tibetan groups based outside of China and what contacts they can collect from within the country. China then puts forth its own version of the story. But most often, the real truth of events remains clouded in shadows, without independent verification.
A few things are certain: Tibetans appear to be protesting Chinese rule more in recent months and China has locked down the region from outsiders. Several monks have set themselves on fire in protest and Chinese restrictions on the region appear to be growing.
But without open access to the area, it may be impossible to know what's really happening there, perhaps not by accident on the part of China.