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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Bush to attend Beijing Olympics opening gala

July 6, 2008

July 04, 2008

WASHINGTON, July 4 -- US President George W. Bush will attend the
opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics, defying boycott calls
from critics of China's record on human rights and in Tibet, the
White House said.

Some world leaders are skipping the August 8 gala, and the two
principle US presidential rivals had strongly urged Bush to at least
consider not going in order to highlight concerns about religious and
political freedoms in China.

But "the president and Mrs Bush will attend the opening ceremonies of
the Summer Olympic Games on August 8" as part of a trip to China
after stops in South Korea and Thailand, Bush spokeswoman Dana Perino
said in a statement Thursday.

The decision was expected to anger human rights activists and critics
of a mid-March Chinese crackdown in Tibet, including many in the
president's Republican party who regularly target Beijing over alleged abuses.

And both major presumptive White House rivals -- Bush's fellow
Republican John McCain and Democrat Barack Obama -- have urged the
president to consider shunning the gala if China's record does not improve.

Bush had always said he would go to the Olympics -- seen as a
symbolic "coming-out" party for China as a major world power -- to
encourage US athletes and rejected calls to use the competition for
diplomatic leverage.

"It says I'm supporting our athletes is what it says. And I don't
view the Olympics as a political event. I view it as a sporting
event," he told ABC television in an April interview.

"And, you know, I have brought up religious freedom and Darfur and
Burma and the Dalai Lama before the Olympics, during the Olympics,
and after the Olympics I'll bring it up," said Bush.

His stop in China will come as part of what may be his farewell trip
to Asia, with stops in South Korea and Thailand, though the White
House has yet to announce the dates for his departure from Washington
or his return.

The White House had said earlier this week that Bush would be in
South Korea August 5 and 6, but Perino later retracted that
announcement as "premature" but "not inaccurate" while offering a
"little bit of an apology" to Seoul.

In South Korea, Bush and his counterpart Lee Myung-Bak will discuss
efforts to get their respective legislatures to ratify the US-South
Korea free trade pact, amid violent protests in South Korea against a
deal to resume US beef imports, said Perino.

In Thailand, Bush will "celebrate 175 years of the US-Thailand
relationship" and discuss regional and bilateral issues with Thai
Prime Minister Samak Sundaravej, she said.

In China, Bush will meet with President Hu Jintao and other top
officials to discuss key issues including progress towards stripping
North Korea of its nuclear programs, said Perino.

The US president heads to Japan Saturday for a summit of the Group of
Eight industrialized nations as well as bilateral talks with leaders
of Japan, Russia, Germany, India, China, and South Korea.

Perino said earlier that Bush was "pleased" that Beijing was holding
talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual
leader, but stressed that his attendance at the opening ceremonies
did not depend on the outcome.

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has linked his attendance to
progress in a second round of talks between China and the Dalai Lama
over the situation in Tibet.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says 203 Tibetans have been killed
and about 1,000 injured in the Chinese crackdown. China denies this,
saying Tibetan "rioters" and "insurgents" killed 21 people.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel has said she is not going to the
ceremonies, while British Prime Minister Gordon Brown is also not
attending, although his office insists he never intended to.

The ceremonies are due to be held in the 80,000-seat National Stadium
in Beijing -- nicknamed the Bird's Nest because of the intricate
lattice work on its outer shell.
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