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"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."

President George W. Bush calls on China to engage in substantive dialogue

May 6, 2008

International Campaign for Tibet
May 2, 2008

(Photo: TCHRD)  Protests near Labrang Monastery on March 14, 2008. http://savetibet.org/images/images/Protest_Labrang_March08_04.jpg

US President George W. Bush speaking yesterday to a gathering of Asian Americans at the White House, said "I welcome the recent statements by the Chinese government expressing its willingness to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama - precisely what I have suggested President Hu Jintao do. I think it's important that there be a renewed dialogue, and that dialogue must be substantive so we can address in a real way the deep and legitimate concerns of the Tibetan people." The Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala, India, announced today that envoys of the Dalai Lama were due to arrive in China on Saturday May 3 for "informal talks with representatives of the Chinese leadership."

Mary Beth Markey, Vice President for International Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet, said "We have been waiting to hear from the President, and with this statement and other recent initiatives from senior US officials, it appears that the administration is picking up the pace, reflecting the serious nature of both the situation in Tibet, and American intent that a resolution be found through dialogue with the Dalai Lama."

The comments by President Bush are the first he has made since the Chinese government announced through the official press on April 25 that "relevant departments" in the Chinese government would have "contact and consultations" with representatives of the Dalai Lama. "I welcome the recent statements by the Chinese government expressing its willingness to meet with representatives of the Dalai Lama," said President Bush yesterday. "It's important that there be a renewed dialogue - and that dialogue must be substantive."

The nature of Beijing's announcement through the official press, and the timing of the announcement so soon before the Beijing Olympics and with the Chinese government under intense international scrutiny for its response to protests in Tibet, led many observers to doubt the motives of the Chinese government in calling for talks. Mary Beth Markey said at the time "It's too early to tell if the meeting will produce results or is just for PR purposes in advance of the Olympics." However, she said that the announcement from Beijing shows government advocacy has an impact and she added, "Governments who have called for a positive Chinese response on Tibet must continue to bear some responsibility for the outcome."
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