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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?"

China blasts Australia over Tibet stance

February 12, 2009

Sandra O'Malley, The Age, Australia
February 10, 2009

China has blasted Australia for making "ill-founded" comments about
Tibet after Canberra raised the issue during a review of Beijing's human
rights record in Geneva.

And Australia has hit back over China's refusal to let a pro-Tibet group
take part in an event in Canberra on the sidelines of an annual human
rights dialogue between the two nations.

Australia and Canada were among nations to take hardline positions on
China's progress on human rights during a periodic United Nations
assessment in Geneva.

The website reported Australia raised reports of Chinese
harassment, arbitrary arrest, detention and punishment of religious
minorities, specifically mentioning Tibet.

Canberra's candid stance on Tibet reportedly prompted China's UN
ambassador, Li Baodong, to accuse Australia of making "ill-founded
comments on the question of Tibet".

The Geneva review comes as Australia and China conclude their 12th
annual dialogue on human rights in Canberra on Tuesday.

China's Assistant Foreign Affairs Minister Liu Jieyi, who headed the
Chinese delegation, told reporters in Canberra, the periodic review
enabled countries to learn from each other.

"This review process should be based on objective and impartial
assessments of the efforts of the countries involved and offer
constructive suggestions," he said.

"Of course those accusations that do not square with the facts are not
in conformity with the principle of such practice and will not be
acceptable to the majority of ... parties who have undergone this
periodic review."

The Rudd government has repeatedly raised its concerns about the
treatment of Tibetans with China despite its obvious displeasure about
Canberra's position.

Last year during a visit to Beijing, Prime Minister Kevin Rudd drew a
strong rebuff from China when he raised the situation in Tibet during a
speech in Mandarin at Peking University.

Mr Liu said Beijing didn't regard the Tibetan issue as being about human
rights, religious freedom or culture.

"I believe the Australian side is very much aware of the Chinese
position on this issue," he said.

"An important thing in understanding of this issue is we must base our
opinions on solid facts."

Foreign Minister Stephen Smith, who met Mr Liu on Monday, told the
minister he was disappointed the Chinese delegation had not allowed the
Australia Tibet Council to attend a reception for non-government
organisations involved in the dialogue.

"I regarded that as an unfortunate backward step," he told reporters.

The Australia Tibet Council was permitted to attend similar functions in
both 2004 and 2006.

A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said the
Australian government had "pushed very hard for the Australia Tibet
Council's attendance at this year's reception".

"But on this occasion it was not possible to obtain Chinese government
agreement to their participation despite the fact they attended similar
functions in 2004 and 2006," he said.

"The government is disappointed with this outcome."
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