US asks China to review Tibet policies

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : The US has asked Beijing to review its Tibet policies that have created tensions, hold a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and exercise restraint in dealing with protesters against Chinese rule in Lhasa.

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US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice made the call in a statement Saturday as local Tibetan-American groups held demonstrations in New York, Washington and Chicago in solidarity with the protesters in Tibet.

Rice urged “China to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions due to their impact on Tibetan religion, culture, and livelihoods”.

President George Bush, she noted, “has consistently encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama directly and through his representatives so that long-standing issues with regard to Tibet may be resolved.”

Rice said she was “deeply saddened to learn that the turmoil that erupted yesterday (Friday) in Lhasa following what began as peaceful protests has resulted in the loss of lives, and I am concerned that the violence appears to be continuing.

“We call on the Chinese government to exercise restraint in dealing with these protests, and we strongly urge all sides to refrain from violence,” she said expressing concern over reports of a sharply increased police and military presence in and around Lhasa.

“We urge China to respect the fundamental and universally recognized right of all of its citizens to peacefully express their political and religious views, and we call on China to release monks and others who have been detained solely for the peaceful expression of their views,” Rice said.

Rice’s statement came as local Tibetan-American groups held demonstrations in three US cities in solidarity with the protesters in Lhasa. In New York, Police clashed with demonstrators outside the Chinese consulate in Manhattan during a largely peaceful protest by ethnic Tibetans.

Several police officers and protesters were injured and there was broken glass in the street, according to local media reports. Police said they made several arrests.

The trouble started when some picketers began throwing rocks at the consulate, according an organizer of the demonstration. The clash was short-lived and hundreds of ethnic Tibetans continued to demonstrate peacefully following the face-off.

In Washington, about 80 protesters held Tibetan flags and chanted “Shame on China” and “Stop the Killings,” as they demonstrated outside the Chinese Embassy. They also held signs protesting Beijing’s hosting of the Olympics in August.

“We want to send a message to the Chinese Embassy that what is happening inside Tibet and what they are doing to the Tibetans inside Tibet is not justified. We want to strongly condemn that,” a report quoted Namka Tenzin as saying.

“China doesn’t have a right (to host the Olympics) because they are torturing other people,” said Sonam Singeri. “The situation is getting worse and worse.”

In Chicago, a group of local Tibetan-Americans protested Saturday outside the Chinese Consulate. Ordered by the police to stand on the sidewalk opposite the consulate, they waved the Tibetan flag and chanted, “Stop the killing, stop the torture” and “Long live the Dalai Lama.”

“People are not happy in Tibet,” said Karma Dhargyal cited by Chicago Tribune. “We know a lot of our brothers and sisters are being killed.”

About 80 protesters held a candlelight vigil at the Chinese Consulate Friday night. Three people, two men and a woman, were arrested after they blocked cars of Chinese officials leaving the building’s garage. Organizers said the three people were released from custody late Friday and the two men were charged.

Choephal Baro, of the Tibetan Alliance of Chicago, said Chicago has about 300 Tibetans, a part of the approximately 10,000 Tibetans living in the US.

Meanwhile, a US spokesperson for Amnesty International (AI) called on Bush to speak forcefully on the issue as the organisation asked the Chinese authorities to allow an independent UN investigation into the situation in Tibet.

“President Bush should immediately address the deteriorating situation in Tibet and state, in no uncertain terms, that China cannot afford to gamble with life and liberty so close to the advent of the Olympics,” said T. Kumar, Asia advocacy director for Amnesty International USA (AIUSA).

“Chinese authorities have indicated that hosting the Olympic Games would serve to improve the country’s human rights record, but recent actions in Tibet only serve to undermine its reputation,” he said.