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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."

Pelosi Seen Downplaying Human Rights, Tibet on China Visit

May 24, 2009

By Michael Forsythe
May 23, 2009

On a trip to Beijing in 1991, Representative
Nancy Pelosi slipped away from her official hosts
and unfurled a banner on Tiananmen Square
commemorating the hundreds who died there during
the Chinese government’s suppression of
pro-democracy protests two years earlier.

Now, returning days before the 20th anniversary
of the Tiananmen crackdown as the speaker of the
U.S. House of Representatives, Pelosi won’t be
able to easily break free, even if she wanted to.

In the 18 years since Pelosi displayed her
banner, the U.S.-China relationship has broadened
as China’s economy grew about 10-fold. President
Barack Obama is seeking to expand talks with
Chinese leaders on issues ranging from climate
change -- the U.S. and China are the two biggest
emitters of greenhouse gases -- to addressing the global recession.

"Given the agenda of the Obama administration, I
doubt that she will be as provocative on human
rights as she has been on previous visits to
Beijing,” said Dennis Wilder, Asia director on
the National Security Council under President
George W. Bush. “That said, I also do not believe
she will shy away from criticizing the Chinese government on human rights.”

Pelosi, a California Democrat, will visit
Shanghai tomorrow and on May 25 and is scheduled
to talk with Chinese leaders about climate change
in Beijing on May 26, according to the U.S.
Embassy in Beijing. She is traveling with members
of the House panel set up in 2007 to address global warming.

Climate Change Focus

Pelosi, asked at a Capitol Hill press conference
yesterday about whether she would bring up human
rights on her trip, declined to address the
topic. She told reporters that the purpose of the
visit to China was to help the two countries come
closer to agreement before the United
Nations-sponsored climate conference in
Copenhagen in December, which aims to craft a new
international agreement on reducing greenhouse gases.

"We’re hoping that we’re able to seal the deal by
the time we go to Copenhagen, but we have to see
what the possibilities are for common ground and
learn from each other as we go forward," Pelosi said.

Pelosi, 69, has been an outspoken critic of
China’s rights record, most recently on Tibet. In
March, she and actor Richard Gere spoke on
Capitol Hill on the 50th anniversary of a Tibetan
uprising against Chinese rule that pushed the
Dalai Lama out of his palace in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and into exile.

Last year, Pelosi said the International Olympic
Committee made a mistake in awarding the 2008
summer games to Beijing and urged people to speak
out against China’s Tibet policy after the
Chinese government quelled protests there in
March 2008. The government in Beijing considers Tibet part of China.

Tibet Deaths

China says at least 19 people died in last year’s
riots, the biggest protests in almost 20 years.
Tibet’s government-in- exile said more than 200
Tibetans were killed in China’s ensuing crackdown.

Cheng Li, research director at the John L.
Thornton China Center at Washington’s Brookings
Institution, said the Chinese believe they have
been able to change the image of their country
with U.S. leaders, including Presidents Bill
Clinton and George W. Bush, Li said.

Some Chinese leaders "may even have the illusion
that they can change the view of Nancy Pelosi,"
Li said. "If they think that way, it really shows
they probably need to do more homework to
understand American politics, particularly to understand Nancy Pelosi."

To contact the reporter on this story: Michael
Forsythe in Washington at
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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