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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."

China is 'no monster' ...we have made mistakes, Ambassador Says

June 5, 2008

Andy Johnson
Trinidad and Tobago Express
June 4, 2008

THE People's Republic of China will develop on its own experience,
but "of course with modifications from the west," the Chinese
Ambassador to Trinidad and Tobago Huang Xing said, as he wound up an
hour-long discussion at his office in Port of Spain recently.

"Diversity is what I think will be how the world should be. From the
history, you see that some countries have tried to force their own
systems on others, but it never works. Harmony, peace and development
(constitute) the main theme of the world today. Our country wants to
be friendly with other countries. Without this you can't have
sustainable development countries, he said, seeming to just get
started even as he glanced at his watch for the first time during the
discussion.

We had come to the point during the interview, at which the issue of
international focus on China over the protests against the travels of
the Olympic torch had led to discussions about China's human rights record.

To questions about the international television coverage of those
protests and the view that they were being doctored for consumption
in China, Ambassador Huang said this was not so. The Chinese media
was telling "the whole story," he protested. He said it was the
western media, most notably the American television network CNN,
which was slanting its coverage to amplify the protests while
ignoring the pro-China demonstrations in many instances.

It was true, he conceded, that in coverage of the torch relay in
Australia, in Bangkok, Thailand and in Seoul, South Korea, the
coverage did reflect both sides.

He had been asked earlier to comment on the incident in 1989 when
government troops fired on young protestors in Tiananmen Square. Was
this not an example of the intolerance of dissent by Chinese leaders?
He said he preferred not to comment about that.

Generally, though, there have been other instances of alleged
heavy-handedness by the authorities in China in the period under
review, since the coming to power of the regime under the late
Chairman Mao Tse Tung. One such, I told him, was the book written
entitled Life and Death in Shanghai. It was written by Nien Cheng,
wife of the man who was the head of Standard Oil in China at the time
of the communist take over. She described in gripping detail
atrocities committed by members of the Red Guard on her and her
daughter, who died in a mental hospital unbeknownst to her mother.
She had been isolated, her mother said, because she refused to
surrender to the will of the revolution.

"We made mistakes," he said plainly. "And we have learned from them.
Any country going through phases of development ( as China has been)
would have made mistakes," he said. The "New China" period ushered in
when Deng Xiaoping assumed leadership of the Communist party after
the death of Mao Tse Tung in 1976, Mr Huang said, laid the
foundations for the kind of rapid social and economic developments
which have propelled his country into the modern economic force it is.

"People are judging China by western values. They want to force their
notions on China," he said, before launching into his stout defence
of his country, which has a population of 1.3 billion people, one
sixth of the world's population.

"China is no monster," he declared. "A handful of people want to make
it seem that way, but nobody can stop China's development."

This came right after he had protested the notion that Beijing was
intolerant of the nationalist sentiments of the Tibetan people, the
centrepiece of the protests against the passage of the Olympic torch.
He also accused the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan
people, of saying one thing and doing another.

Was the Dalai Lama not advising his followers against violence and
against calling for outright independence from China? Those comments
are not sincere, Ambassador Huang insisted. Claiming "outside
interference" he said there were foreign governments and foundations
providing financial and other assistance to Tibetans to maintain
their protests against the Chinese authorities.

"And if things like that are taking place in another country would
they not take action? They (the free Tibet activists) killed people.
They seized weapons from police stations," he said, after saying that
Tibet had been part of China for 800 years, and that 95 per dent of
the Tibetan people agree with the actions of the central government in Beijing.

Under the feudal system in Tibet, he said, 95 per cent of Tibetans
had no rights, adding that the Central government also had in place
the system which provided for the nomination of the person who
becomes the Dalai Lama. Through that system China recognises the
Dalai Lama "as a living Buddha," Mr Huang said.

On China's refusal to recognise Taiwan as a sovereign nation, the
ambassador maintained the party line. Taiwan had been a part of China
from ancient times. The Chinese people, perhaps 99 per cent of them,
are against recognition and the central government's position is a
recognition of that will.

The government, he said "dare not go against it." This was the
meaning of democracy. Same thing with Hong Kong, he said, adding that
"suppose the people of Hawaii say they want to form a Kingdom, what
do you expect the Americans will do?" The question was rhetorical.

Protests associated with the staging of the Olympic Games are not
unique, he said, adding that this time "it is the same thing." He was
ready with his own comment that "security is a major issue and we
have to bear that." But for him, he felt it necessary to restate the
mantra that "I think it is against the spirit of the Olympic spirit
to mix politics with sports."

Moments later, after talking about the transition from the old to the
new China, and about Beijing's increasing presence in assistance to
developing countries in Trinidad and Tobago, the Caribbean and in
other developing countries, he fell back on the Chinese tradition of
relying on the wisdom of the ages.

"Protecting individual rights must not violate collective rights," he
said. "It is a very old Chinese philosophy which we still observe."

This interview was conducted before the May 12 earthquake which
devastated large sections of the western province of Sichuan.
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