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New China era as MPs visit Tibet

November 9, 2009

STEVE LEWIS
Adelaide Now
November 4, 2009

CHINA and Australia will usher in a new era of
political co-operation, after the communist
superpower agreed to let a group of MPs visit
Tibet for the first time since 1991.

China will this weekend host the parliamentary
delegation of seven federal MPs, led by Senate president John Hogg.

They will be among the first international
observers to gain official access to Tibet since
the Buddhist kingdom erupted in violence just
over a year ago. The visit shows China is willing
to enter a new phase in the bilateral relationship.

Senator Hogg vowed the MPs won't hold back in
criticising China's human rights record.

The delegation includes three Labor MPs - Mark
Dreyfus, Anna Burke and Sid Sidebottom - while
the Liberal Party is sending West Australians Mal Washer and Andrew Southcott.

Greens Senator Scott Ludlam will round out the
delegation and is promising to speak out if he witnesses human rights abuses.

"I do expect that we will be closely watched
over. I know that movement is going to be very
restricted," Senator Ludlam told News Limited from China.

Planning for the Tibet visit has been underway
for several months. Senator Hogg also promised
not to hold back from a robust debate over human rights issues.

"We will engage in the debate in a robust and
forthright manner," the veteran Labor Senator
said. But Senator Hogg also conceded the visit
reflected an improvement in the bilateral relationship.
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