Join our Mailing List

"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

U.S., Australian Envoys to Visit Tibet on Chinese-Approved Trip

March 28, 2008

By Ed Johnson and Viola Gienger

March 28, 2008 (Bloomberg) -- U.S. and Australian diplomats join a
Chinese government-approved trip to the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, today
after security forces earlier this month cracked down on the biggest
protests in almost 20 years.

``We see this as a step in the right direction,'' State Department
spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters in Washington yesterday. ``But
it's not a substitute for the ability of our diplomats, as well as
others, to travel not only to Lhasa, but into the surrounding areas.''

Officials want a greater understanding of what happened in the Tibet
Autonomous Region and the western provinces of Sichuan, Gansu, Qinghai
and Yunnan when protests against Chinese rule turned violent this month,
McCormack said. A diplomat from the Australian Embassy in Beijing will
join the tour, Foreign Minister Stephen Smith's office said in Canberra
today.

China, which deployed troops in Tibet in 1950 and annexed the region a
year later, says supporters of the Dalai Lama killed 18 civilians and
one policeman in riots that erupted in Lhasa March 14 and spread to
Tibetan-populated provinces in western China. Tibet's
government-in-exile says Chinese soldiers killed at least 140 protesters.

President George W. Bush and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ``have
strongly urged the Chinese government to act with restraint when it is
dealing with protesters,'' and to hold talks with the Dalai Lama,
Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, said McCormack. ``We have urged all
sides to turn away from violence.''

McCormack didn't say which other countries will send envoys on the trip
to Lhasa.

Olympic Games

China, which hosts the Olympic Games in Beijing in August, has accused
the protesters of trying to undermine the event.

The Olympic torch relay is scheduled to pass through Tibet June 19 and
20 and officials in the Chinese-backed regional government say
protesters may try to disrupt it.

``To our knowledge, some separatists from within and outside China are
seeking to sabotage the Olympic torch relay within Tibet,'' Baema
Chilain, vice-chairman of the Tibetan regional government, said
yesterday in Lhasa, China's state-run Xinhua News Agency reported. ``We
are confident and capable of ensuring the security of the relay and
taking it to the top'' of Mount Everest, the world's tallest peak.

Buddhist monks at the Zhaibung, Gandan and Sera monasteries and the
Jokhang Temple are being temporarily confined to the premises as
authorities investigate allegations they took part in the violence,
Xinhua cited Chilain as saying.

``Tibetan monks are also citizens, and they should abide by the law,''
he added.

Western Criticism

China was criticized by Western governments and media for closing the
region to international visitors after the protests.

In response, it is escorting a group of international journalists on a
three-day trip to Lhasa. About 30 monks disrupted their tour yesterday
of the Jokhang Temple, the Associated Press reported. One monk shouted
``Tibet is not free'' while others said the Dalai Lama had nothing to do
with the violence.

The monks won't be punished, Xinhua cited Chilain as saying. ``What they
said is not true. They were attempting to mislead the world's opinion.''

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959, accuses the government in
Beijing of committing ``cultural genocide'' there.

Mass migration of ethnic Han Chinese has made Tibetans a minority in
their own land, according to the exiled government. Religious freedom is
curtailed as authorities restrict the number of Buddhist monks and nuns.
Possessing an image of the 14th Dalai Lama, believed by Tibetans to be a
manifestation of Avalokiteshvara, the Buddha of Compassion, is illegal,
it says.

China says it peacefully liberated Tibet and saved its people from
feudal serfdom. It says Tibetans have the political rights of other
ethnic groups in China and that the establishment of the Tibet
Autonomous Region in 1965 introduced democracy.

To contact the reporters on this story: Ed Johnson in Sydney at
ejohnson28@bloomberg.net; Viola Gienger in Washington at
vgienger@bloomberg.net.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
Developed by plank