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Dharamsala, Feb. 13: The US Wednesday expressed its concern on situation in Tibet, but did not specify if the issue would definitely be taken up by the Secretary of State Hillary Clinton during her visit to China later this month, according to a media report.

“You know, the situation in Tibet is something the US government has been concerned about for some time. We’ve raised that issue with the Chinese in the past,” PTI reported the State Department spokesperson, Robert Wood, as saying.

“The Secretary (of State) will be having a wide-ranging discussion with the Chinese when she is in China. I am not going to get beyond what we have said publicly about our engagement with China,” he said.

“But human rights issues are something that will be at the top of the Secretary’s agenda, no matter where she goes,” Wood said.

Wood was reportedly responding to a question about the latest statement from the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama that the situation in Tibet is very tense and there could be a popular uprising any moment.

“The issue could very well come up. I just don’t want to get into specific subject areas at this point. But you can expect that the Secretary is going to be bringing up human rights issues throughout the trip, where she deems it necessary to do so”, he said when asked about whether the issue would come up or not.

Mrs. Clinton, only a month into the job, as announced by the State Department last week, would be travelling on her first overseas trip in this position to Japan, Indonesia, South Korea and China during her week-long trip beginning February 15.

Meanwhile, seven prominent organizations, mostly based in US, Tuesday issued a joint press statement asking Mrs Clinton to put Human Rights on top of the agenda in her visit to Beijing next week.

In the statement, Amnesty International USA, Freedom House, Human Rights First, Human Rights in China, Human Rights Watch, the International Campaign for Tibet, and Reporters Without Borders urged Secretary Clinton to speak publicly about Tibet and Xinjiang, torture in police custody, domestic press censorship, extrajudicial detention, and abuses of human rights defenders.

The statement recalls the secretary’s own past comments on human rights in China, in which she stressed: “not taking citizens away from their loved ones and jailing them, mistreating them, or denying them their freedom or dignity because of the peaceful expression of their ideas and opinions.”

“If Secretary Clinton remains silent on these issues – as the US did earlier this week during China’s review at the Human Rights Council in Geneva – the Chinese government is likely to get the wrong message,” said Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch.

“We ask the secretary to stress human rights, the rule of law, and protections for civil society as a centerpiece of US policy going forward,” she said.

More than 100 Tibet supporters from over 30 countries affirmed their support for the Dalai Lama’s emphasis on engagement with China and outreach to the Chinese people, but expressed serious concern about Beijing’s propaganda offensive on Tibet and failure to engage with the Tibetan side in the dialogue process.

The activists gathered in Delhi this weekend to discuss strategies for Tibet’s future at a time of crisis, responding to a call from the Dalai Lama for suggestions from the movement to the Dharamsala-based exile government, following a meeting for Tibetans from the diaspora between November 17 and 22.

“This meeting was called at a time of crisis in Tibet – there is a major crackdown on the Tibetan plateau following a wave of protests against Chinese rule, and Beijing is taking an increasingly hostile approach to the Dalai Lama,” said Dr. N.K. Trikha, Convener of the Indian Core Group for the Tibetan Cause, which organized the meeting. “There is a deep concern that if the issue is not resolved, there may be more unrest and repression in Tibet in the buildup to the 50th anniversary next year of the March uprising which led to Dalai Lama’s escape from Tibet in 1959. Representatives from all over the world shared a sense of solidarity and urgency in discussing new approaches to be presented to the Tibetan government in exile,” he said.

The meeting observed a one minute silence in memory of those hundreds of Tibetans who lost their lives to Chinese security forces’ bullets in uprising this year and also to those who were killed in terrorist violence in Mumbai last week. The communiqué of the group, which met in Gurgaon, stated: “This violent tragedy underlines the urgent need for the international community to take meaningful action in support of those who pursue non-violent struggles, including the Tibetan people.”

The TSGs are non-governmental organizations formed voluntarily by individuals to support the Tibetan people’s freedom movement through various non-violent actions and means across the globe. This was the first such meeting of TSGs following the Tibetan people’s uprising across Tibet during March-April this year.

“The meeting expressed profound concern over the continuing suffering of the Tibetan people living under de facto martial law and solidarity with over a thousand political prisoners and hundreds of those Tibetans who still remain disappeared since the beginning of the Tibetan uprising,” said Dr. Trikha.

Delegates took exception to the Chinese government’s presentation of the Tibetan uprising in occupied Tibet as ‘violent riots in Lhasa’ despite the overwhelmingly peaceful nature of six-month long Tibetan people’s expression against Chinese rule across the entire Tibetan plateau. There was general agreement that despite lack of progress in the current dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and Beijing, the strategy of engagement needed to continue.

Delegates’ suggestions will be presented in full to the Tibetan government in exile. Some comments made during the meeting were as follows:

1. “We understand there are many different perspectives among Chinese people and we need to create alliances with those who are also suffering under Communist Party policies.”

2. “Focus advocacy work on stake-holder governments in Asia such as India, where Tibet is of particular geopolitical importance, and draw attention to the critical significance of Tibet’s environment as a watershed for Asia’s great rivers and as the earth’s ‘third pole'”

3. “Explore fresh strategies for supporting the institution of the Dalai Lama, and recognize that the Dalai Lama’s leadership extends to peoples of many different countries in the Himalayas, Mongolia, and beyond”


Speaker of Tibetan parliament-in-exile Karma Choephel

Tibetan exiles worked Tuesday to hammer out a new strategy for their fight against Chinese rule in the region, after the Dalai Lama called for fresh guidance from his followers.
More than 500 prominent Tibetans have gathered at the government in exile’s base in northern India to debate whether to ditch the Dalai Lama’s push for “meaningful autonomy” in favour of a demand for full independence.

B. Tsering, a delegate and president of the Tibetan Women’s Association, said the week of discussions could re-define the movement.

“Everyone feels the big responsibility entrusted to us,” she said after the first sessions of debate. “And there is concern that we are trying to come up with a solid strategic plan in just a few days.
“We are working in groups of 40, hearing representatives express the opinions that they have collected.”

The Tibetan Women’s Association has long supported the Dalai Lama’s “middle way” autonomy policy, but Tsering said it was now time to ask if a new approach was necessary.
“All of us are aware that the Dalai Lama has left no stone unturned in his work and yet he has not had any breakthrough,” she said.

“If at the end of this week the majority feel we should stick to the ‘middle way’, we have to think how we can make it work better. Maybe we have to seek alternatives.”

The Dalai Lama, who is not expected to attend the talks, said earlier this month that the “middle way” had failed, and he was now asking fellow Tibetans how to proceed.

A growing number of young exiles favour a call for independence, but such a policy switch would likely see a sharp drop in international support for their cause — and could also split the community.
Acharya Yeshi Phuntsok, a delegate and member in the parliament in exile, said the meeting, which began Monday, was also focused on the current situation in Tibet.


Prime Minister of Tibetan government in exile, Samdhong Rinpoche (L)

In March, protests against Chinese rule in the capital, Lhasa, erupted into violence that spread to other areas of western China with Tibetan populations.

Tibet’s government in exile said more than 200 Tibetans were killed in the subsequent Chinese crackdown. China has reported police as killing just one “insurgent” and blames Tibetan “rioters” for the deaths of 21 people.

Phuntsok said the Dharamshala talks had already revealed some reluctance to abandon the Dalai Lama’s moderate stance.

“The debate over the ‘middle way’ or independence has started, but changing policy is not easy,” he said. “Perhaps we still have to give more energy to the present approach to see if it can work.”
Phuntsok described the meeting as “good brain-storming” that would result in a clear idea of Tibetan opinion.

The strategy session has no policy-making power — any recommendations would require the approval of the Tibetan parliament — but the prime minister in exile said the outcome would be influential.

“The atmosphere has been rather emotionally charged due to the repression in Tibet and the mixed feelings we have of fear and hope,” Samdhong Rinpoche told reporters on Tuesday.
“We are sincerely committed to democracy, and that means respecting the public opinion that is being sought in this meeting.”

The Dalai Lama was smuggled out of Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, since when thousands of his followers have also fled.

DHARAMSALA, India: Tibetan leaders opened a six-day meeting over the direction of their struggle with China on Monday, after the Dalai Lama, the region’s exiled spiritual leader, expressed frustration over years of fruitless talks with Beijing.

The meeting here in northern India, called by the Dalai Lama, comes after his comments last month bemoaning the lack of any progress by his envoys in talks with the Chinese government since 2002.

Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, called for an “open and frank discussion” and new ideas. Much of the debate is expected to boil down to two main choices: to continue pushing for Tibetan autonomy or beginning a movement for independence.

Rinpoche said in an opening speech to the hundreds of delegates that the meeting may not necessarily lead to a new approach with China and that any new path needs to have “the clear mandate of the people.”

The Dalai Lama was not expected to attend the meetings, said Lobsang Choedak, press officer of the government-in-exile.

On Sunday, the Dalai Lama’s envoys to the last round of talks with Beijing said in a statement that they had presented China with a detailed plan on how Tibetans could meet their autonomy needs within the framework of the Chinese Constitution. Their plan says the Constitution “contains fundamental principles on autonomy and self-government” that would allow Beijing to “respond to the uniqueness of the Tibet situation.”

But China apparently rejected the plan and recent “Chinese statements distort the position and proposal” outlined in the paper, the statement said.

Chinese officials said no progress was made in the talks two weeks ago, calling the Tibetan stance “a trick.”

“The Dalai Lama or the Tibetan government-in-exile cannot be held responsible for the failure of the Chinese to respond to our sincere and genuine attempts,” said Lodi Gyari, an envoy of the Dalai Lama who has participated in all eight rounds of talks since 2002.

“The Chinese leadership keeps on saying that the doors to a dialogue are always open but they haven’t shown any willingness to take any step, however small, forward,” he said.

China has dismissed the meeting this week as meaningless, saying the participants do not represent the views of most Tibetans. Beijing says the Dalai Lama and his followers are seeking outright independence from Chinese rule.

The Dalai Lama has declined to offer his views on the future of the movement because he said he did not want to tilt the debate in any particular direction.

Karma Chophel, speaker of Parliament in the government-in-exile, said more than 8,000 of 17,000 Tibetans recently surveyed in Tibet said they would follow the Dalai Lama. More than 5,000 said they wanted Tibetan independence, more than twice the number who wanted to continue with the current approach, he said. He did not offer any details about how the survey was conducted.