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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.

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Reporters Without Borders called today for the foreign news media to be allowed back immediately into Tibet and nearby provinces with a Tibetan population, where the Chinese authorities have maintained a news blackout and have been conducting a massive propaganda campaign for the past six weeks.

“What is the Chinese government hiding behind Tibet’s closed doors?” the press freedom organisation asked. “Things are clearly far from being back to normal, as the authorities claim. The few reports emerging suggest a very different situation, one of arrests and a climate of fear in the cities and around the monasteries.”

Reporters Without Borders added: “The news blackout facilitates the work of the government’s propaganda machine but also the spread of rumours encouraged by certain groups abroad. We appeal to the European Union and the United Nations to try to get the government to allow foreign reporters to travel freely in Tibet and the neighbouring regions.”

The organisers of the Beijing Olympic Games yesterday announced that a press trip to cover an attempt to take the Olympic torch to the top of Everest was being postponed indefinitely. Reporters were supposed to have gone to the Tibetan capital of Lhasa first to get adjusted to the altitude, but the Lhasa stage of the trip has been cancelled altogether because of “meteorological” problems, the authorities said. “Only coverage of the torch relay will be allowed,” an official said.

No journalist has been allowed to move about freely in Tibet and the regions with a Tibetan population since 14 March. Two press trips were organised by the authorities to Lhasa and to Labrang monastery in Gansu province. Tourists have been banned from visiting the Himalayan region until further notice.

Reporters Without Borders has learned of about 50 violations of the right of foreign journalists to move about freely in the Tibetan regions since mid-March.

The authorities have waged a massive propaganda campaign designed to portray Tibetans as “rioters” and “terrorists.” The official news agency Xinhua’s dispatches talk above all of a return to normal and the discovery of weapons in Buddhist temples. Xinhua announced that the authorities have found firearms, dynamite and satellite dishes in 11 monasteries in Gansu.

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