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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 allows US congressional staffers to Tibet, Dharamsala hopeful

August 18, 2009

Phayul
August 16, 2009

Dharamsala, Aug 16 -- China has allowed US congressional personnel
into Tibet for the first time after last year's unrest there. At
least 10 Congressional staffers will embark on a tour of China and
Tibet this week, according to a statement by the International
Campaign for Tibet dated August 13, which added that several requests
earlier to allow US Congressional staffers to Tibet were rejected by China.

Welcoming the move, the exile Tibetan government based here hoped
that China would allow free and independent access to the visitors in
Tibet. Speaking to the Voice of Tibet radio, the spokesperson of the
exile Tibetan government, Thubten Samphel, said he is hopeful the
visit by congressional staffers to Tibet will pave way for more
visits by diplomats, journalists and researchers in the future to
"independently" investigate the situation inside Tibet. Such visits,
he said, will be helpful.

However, the ICT said, "As typical of such visits to Tibet, the
itinerary will likely be tightly scripted with scant if any
opportunity for independent inquiry. Several European government
officials and foreign journalists have been allowed on tightly
controlled visits to Tibet, almost exclusively to Lhasa, since the
protests began in March 2008."

Todd Stein, Director of Government Relations for the ICT said, "The
U.S. Congress has a demonstrated interest and remains very engaged in
Tibetan issues. What these staffers will be given permission to see
and do will be another indication of how the Chinese government wants
the international community to interpret the situation in Tibet. To
date, Chinese authorities have explained away tension and unrest
across Tibet as isolated incidents resulting from outside
interference. We hope the staffers will see enough to make their own
judgments about the underlying causes and the impact of Chinese
policies on the Tibetan people and their prospects for the future."

The ICT further said these Congressional staff visits could signal a
new Chinese strategy of allowing "opaque access" in order to deflect
such pressure, an approach that may have been previewed during the
July riots in Xinjiang when foreign journalists were allowed to see
the sites of the riots but were not permitted to pursue independent
investigations.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama on number of his recent visits outside
India has asked people to go to Tibet and see the situation themselves.
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