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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."

Beijing dismisses rights fears

February 29, 2008

Financial Times
February 29 2008

China's foreign minister -yesterday scornfully waved aside criticism
of his country's human rights record, suggesting local police would be
more likely to give dissidents a cup of tea than to arrest them.

The comments by Yang Jiechi come amid what human rights groups have
called a crackdown on -dissent ahead of the Beijing Olympics in
August, including the recent detention of several high-profile social
activists.

Yang Chunlin, a dissident, was tried last week on -subversion charges
after he organised a land rights -petition entitled "We Want Human
Rights, Not the Olympics". His lawyer said prosecutors had argued that
the petition stained China's image and so amounted to incitement to
subvert the government.

But Mr Yang dismissed as "impossible" the suggestion that anyone might
be arrested for putting rights before the Beijing games.

"The Chinese people enjoy extensive freedom of speech," he said at a
joint press conference with David Miliband, Britain's foreign
secretary.

"You could ask 10 people on the street to stand in front of public
security officers and freely say 'human rights are far more important
than the Olympics' 10 times or even 100 times and I'll see which
officer arrests them," Mr Yang said. "If they get tired, the public
security officer would probably offer them a cup of tea."

In spite of Mr Yang's tough talk, China has recently appeared keen to
soften international criticism of its rights record ahead of the
games. Mr Yang last week announced at a meeting with Condoleezza Rice,
US secretary of state, that Beijing was willing to resume a human
rights -dialogue with Washington from which it had withdrawn in 2004.

Ms Rice said that during the meeting she had raised a number of human
rights cases with Mr Yang, including that of Hu Jia, a well-known
rights activist who was detained in December and has been charged with
inciting subversion.

However, the US and -Britain have made clear that they are unwilling
to link human rights issues too closely with the Olympics, which
George W. Bush, US president, and Gordon Brown, UK prime minister,
both plan to attend.

Mr Miliband said "no opportunity" had been wasted to raise human
rights issues during his six-day visit to China.

*China's railway to Tibet has strengthened government control in the
remote region and led to policies that marginalise ethnic Tibetans, a
US-based advocacy group said, Reuters reports from Beijing .

Nearly two years after the world's highest railway was completed at a
cost of $1.4bn (€925m, £704m), the International Campaign for Tibet
said it was accelerating an influx of Han Chinese into the region and
threatening its fragile environment.
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