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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

NZ Govt 'deeply concerned' over Tibet

March 19, 2008

Stuff.co.nz, New Zealand
Tuesday, 18 March 2008

Prime Minister Helen Clark today introduced a motion in Parliament
calling on Chinese authorities to react "carefully and proportionately"
to protests over Tibet.

Miss Clark said the Government's views had been conveyed to Chinese
authorities, and there had been formal confirmation that note had been
taken of those views.

"The New Zealand Government is deeply concerned at the violence there,
and is monitoring the situation closely," she said.

"We have urged all involved to exercise restraint. We want to see an end
to the violence."

The violence in Tibet - there are unconfirmed reports that troops have
killed 18 people who were protesting against Chinese rule - has come at
a bad time for the Government.

Miss Clark is due to sign a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with China in
Beijing next month, and the Green Party is demanding that the deal be
scrapped.

She has said the FTA will not be affected by the situation, and the
National Party is backing that position.

Miss Clark told Parliament today New Zealand had long urged China to
engage in meaningful dialogue with representatives of the Tibetan people.

She said New Zealand's Ambassador to China, Tony Browne, conveyed the
Government's concerns to the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs and
there would be further contact through diplomatic channels.

"It is my intention to discuss these issues with the Chinese leadership
when I next meet with them," she said.

"If everything goes according to plan in relation to the proposed Free
Trade Agreement, that will be next month in Beijing."

The motion Miss Clark introduced to Parliament read:

"That this House express its deep concern at reports of violence and
riots in Tibet and subsequently elsewhere in China; call on all sides to
show restraint; express its strong support for the right of people to
protest peacefully; urge the Chinese authorities to react carefully and
proportionately to protest; and urged China to engage in meaningful
dialogue with representatives of the Tibetan people in order to achieve
a lasting resolution of problems in Tibet."

CONCERN ACROSS THE PARTIES

The motion was debated in Parliament and National Party leader John Key
joined the Government in expressing concern.

"It is clear the Chinese Government has engaged in a substantial
imposition of military force in Tibet on a scale and manner that is
unacceptable to the vast majority of New Zealanders," he said.

"National supports role of the citizens of Tibet to peaceful protest,
and calls on the government of China to respect that right."

Mr Key said National supported the FTA negotiations.

"Nothing that we have seen in Tibet in recent days affects that
bi-partisan support for the FTA," he said.

"But neither do the negotiations affect our right and obligation to
speak up when we see small group of people, substantially unable to
defend themselves, treated in a manner which we find, by our standards,
totally reprehensible."

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters, the Minister of Foreign
Affairs, said it was imperative that the violence should stop.

"We have engaged China directly on the Tibet issue since 1972...such
dialogue is the best way to find a lasting and acceptable way forward,"
he said.

"A unilateral trade boycott of China would be futile and would help no one."

The Green Party's foreign affairs spokesman, Keith Locke, supported the
motion but said his party would have liked it to be much stronger and to
clearly take the side of the Tibetan people.

"We want the prime minister to speak the truth about the causes of the
protests in Lhasa and other cities, that is the 50 years of denial of
the rights of the Tibetan people and the ruthless suppression of any
dissent," he said.

"Thousands are being rounded up for exercising their basic right to
protest. They need a fearless advocate, not those who mince words."

Mr Locke said New Zealand's protests had been weaker than those of other
nations.

"Are we now the mouse that only squeaks...shouldn't we show at least
some of the bravery of those Tibetan monks," he said.

"This is not a time for wishy washy words and diplomatic speak."

Maori Party co-leader Pita Sharples said Parliament was united in
supporting the motion.

"But do we have the backbone to do more than to express our concern, to
make a strong statement that challenges China's crackdown on Tibetan
resistance?" he asked.

"This is an action of peaceful defiance."

Dr Sharples said New Zealand was in a unique position of influence
because of the FTA negotiations.

"We can use this bargaining power to advance the path of peace."

United Future's deputy leader, Judy Turner, said the Government was
hoping to "sneak over to Beijing" and sign the FTA.

"It is sadly obvious that the Labour Government has bigger fish to fry
than to uphold an oppressed people's political freedom and fundamental
human rights," she said.

"Worse, it appears to the world that its timid response has been bought
by the Chinese."

Ms Turner said the FTA was a two-way street and New Zealand held a
strong bargaining position.

"At the very least, the prime minister should summon the Chinese
Ambassador to express disapproval," she said.

"Are we so subservient to this relationship that we can't even do that?"

ACT leader Rodney Hide supported the motion but said it should condemn
China's actions.
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