As I read in the Hong Kong press how the young Chinese perceive the Dalai Lama, it is almost as if they are talking about a different person than the one we know. All their life, they have been told that he is some sort of dangerous separatist, intent on taking away land that is rightfully China's. No wonder they react with dismay when confronted with the growing pro-Tibet demonstrations in the West.
There are many ways the Chinese government imposes censorship that makes such lack of understanding possible. You would think, for instance, that the Internet has made information accessible to everyone and anyone, creating a true democracy of knowledge. And yet, governments have devised or acquired the tools to monitor everything that goes on online, and they are therefore even better equipped than before to track and crack down on dissent. And the results can be devastating. Egyptian blogger Kareen Amer got four years for insulting his President (imagine if that were to happen here - the prison population would reach new records!).
And it's not just authoritarian governments. There is no doubt that, since 9/11, we are being kept in the dark as to the extent to which the online activities of Americans are being tracked by our own government. We don't even need to know for sure the extent of the government's eavesdropping capabilities - knowing they exist is enough to make you think twice before publishing anything. Knowing that everything you say and do online can and will be held against you creates a certain level of subconscious self-censorship. Not for me. Publish and be damned, as they say.