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Presidents Obama and Hu discuss Tibet at their first summit

November 18, 2009

International Campaign for Tibet (ICT)
Press release
November 17, 2009

At the US-China summit in Beijing, Presidents
Obama and Hu have released a joint statement that
indicates they discussed a resolution for Tibet,
human rights and religious freedom.

In the joint statement, President Obama said, "I
spoke to President Hu about America's bedrock
beliefs that all men and women possess certain
fundamental human rights. We do not believe that
these principles are unique to America but rather
they are universal rights and that they should be
available to all peoples, to all ethnic and
religious minorities. We did note that while we
recognise that Tibet is part of the People's
Republic of China the United States supports the
early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese
government and the representatives of the Dalai
Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that
the two sides may have." President Hu said, "The
two sides reaffirmed the fundamental principle of
respecting each other's sovereignty and
territorial integrity... We will continue to act
in the spirit of equality, mutual respect and
non-interference in each other's internal
affairs, and engage in dialogue and exchanges on
such issues as human rights and religion in order
to enhance understanding, reduce differences and build common ground."

The joint statement confirms pledges by Obama
Administration officials that Tibet would be
discussed at the summit, and follows a meeting in
September between the Dalai Lama and a White
House delegation in Dharamsala, India. Also,
prior to the summit, Chinese government officials
clearly stated their desire for a reformulated US
statement on Tibet policy and urged President
Obama to reconsider his opinion of the Dalai Lama.

"The joint statement shows that Tibet remains a
prominent issue in the US-China relationship,"
said Mary Beth Markey, ICT Vice President for
International Advocacy. "Chinese officials may
have perceived President Obama's break with
precedence on meeting with the Dalai Lama as an
opening to press for a change of policy. However,
they neglected to take into account that Tibet
was long ago institutionalized as a principled US
foreign policy interest, which incorporates both
support for the Dalai Lama and documentation of
serious rights abuses by the Chinese state against Tibetans."

The joint statement echoes President Obama's
engagement with President Hu in April in which he
expressed his desire for progress in the dialogue
and for improvements in the human rights
situation. In March, the State Department
informed Congress in its 2009 Tibet Negotiations
Report that: "China's engagement with the Dalai
Lama or his representatives to resolve problems
facing Tibetans is in the interest of both the
Chinese government and the Tibetan people.
Failure to resolve these problems will only lead
to greater tensions inside China and will be a
stumbling block to fuller engagement with the United States and other nations."

Mary Beth Markey said: "President Obama went to
Beijing looking for forward movement - not a
roll-back on Tibet. It remains to be seen whether
his new approach will be understood by the
Chinese as a desire to be substantially helpful
in resolving the Tibet issue, and whether
President Obama uses the weight of his office to
promote an early resumption of the dialogue with
meaningful progress toward a resolution."

On November 10, ICT's Board of Directors sent a
letter to President Obama urging him to use the
summit to push for progress on the Tibet issue,
with two specific initiatives recommended: an
offer of assistance to the Chinese government and
representatives of the Dalai Lama in defining a
common goal for their dialogue; and an invitation
for the Dalai Lama to visit China.

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, International Campaign for Tibet
email: press@savetibet.org
Tel: + 44 (0) 7947 138612
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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