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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

China says Obama should understand about Tibet

November 15, 2009

Likening slavery in US to that of Tibetan society
under Dalai Lama, Beijing says 'black president' should be sympathetic
Tania Branigan in Beijing
Guardian (UK)
November 13, 2009

China has suggested Tibet would return to
feudalism under the Dalai Lama. Photograph: Danny Lawson/PA

A Chinese government official has said Barack
Obama should understand China's opposition to the
Dalai Lama and Tibetan independence because he is
a black president who lauded Abraham Lincoln's
role in America abolishing slavery.

Qin Gang, a foreign ministry spokesman, likened
slavery in America to Tibetan society under the
Dalai Lama, and Lincoln's opposition to the
secession of southern states to China's opposition to Tibetan independence.

Tibetan groups were quick to respond by claiming
the mantle of Lincoln for their own cause.

The comments came four days before Obama arrives
in China during his first tour of the
Asia-Pacific region. He was criticised for
declining to meet the Dalai Lama in Washington
last month, but has said he will meet the exiled
Tibetan spiritual leader in the future.

Beijing accuses the Buddhist leader of
"splittism" and says that prior to Communist
party rule Tibetans lived as serfs. The Dalai
Lama says he seeks only meaningful autonomy for
the region and would not return to the feudal
system, which Tibetan campaign groups say cannot
in any case be likened to slavery.

Speaking at a regular press briefing, Qin said
Obama had observed that he could not have become
president without the efforts of his 19th century predecessor.

"He is a black president and he understands the
slavery abolition movement and Lincoln's major
significance for that movement. Lincoln played an
incomparable role in protecting the national
unity and territorial integrity of the United States."

Qin said China hoped that "more than any other
foreign leader" Obama would grasp China's stance
on national sovereignty and territorial integrity.

In a briefing on the trip this week, Jeffrey
Bader, the senior director for east Asian affairs
at the US national security council, said he had
"every reason to expect that the issue of Tibet will come up".

"The president has made clear that he is prepared
to meet with the Dalai Lama in the future at the
appropriate time. He met with him in the past
when he was a senator and he will meet with him again."

Qin said Beijing opposed any meetings between the
Dalai Lama and foreign leaders and that the issue
was among China's core concerns.

Matt Whitticase of the Free Tibet campaign said
Beijing's claims would backfire. "By trying to be
clever China has underlined its inability to see
what true freedom looks like," he said. "As a
democratically elected president Abraham Lincoln
would have instinctively opposed China's
enslavement of the Tibetan people and supported
the Dalai Lama as the legitimate leader of the Tibetan people.

"Tibetans constantly called for the Dalai Lama's
return last year during their protests. President
Obama is smart enough to realise this and is well
aware the US Congress has passed a law which
states Tibet's true representatives are the Dalai
Lama and the Tibetan government in exile, as recognised by the Tibetan people."

This year, China declared a new Tibetan holiday
called serfs' emancipation day to mark the 50th
anniversary of China's defeat of a
pro-independence uprising. Melvyn Goldstein, the
author of A History of Modern Tibet, said at the
time that a system similar to Europe's manorial
one had existed in Tibet before the 1950s. Bonded
peasants worked on land owned by nobles or
monasteries without wages, living on what they grew on tenement land.

"The Dalai Lama says the system was not good and
he was happy to get rid of it," Goldstein said.
"[But] it was not like serfdom in Russia, selling people here and there."
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