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Obama to skip Tibet while talking about human rights in Asia

By Lalit K Jha
November 14, 2009 12:19 IST
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US President Barack Obama would skip the mention of Tibet when he talks about human rights situation in Asia and the countries he is visiting on his maiden Asia trip, a US official has said. "He (Obama) will not mention Tibet (in his speech). He will, of course, mention our commitment to the rights and freedoms that we believe all people should have, and I'll leave it at that," Ben Rhodes, Deputy National Advisor for Strategic Communications told reporters in Tokyo, where Obama is travelling right now.

Obama is scheduled to deliver a major policy speech on Asia when he addresses some 1500 people in Tokyo on Saturday. Myanmar would also figure prominently in his speech,Rhodes said. Traditionally Myanmar and Tibet have been the two major human rights issue for the US in the past several years. After Obama did not meet the Dalai Lama, during the latter's recent visit to Washington, the first US President not to do so in more than a decade, his administration has been accused of downplaying the Tibet issue before his visit to China.

The White House, meanwhile, has denied this. "I mean, all I would say is that we remain committed to the rights of Tibetan people to achieve their own human rights and their cultural identity. Our position on that is very clear and very strong,"Rhodes said.
"The President will look forward to the opportunity to meet with the Dalai Lama to discuss this and he has said he will raise this issue as well as -- and attempting to make progress on this with the Chinese and Tibetans," Rhodes said.

Meanwhile, the International Campaign for Tibet today called on Obama to use the opportunity of next week's summit in China to focus on Tibet's future and to dismiss attempts by Beijing to manipulate US policy. On November 6, the South China Morning Post had reported that the Chinese government is asking the Obama Administration to state that "Tibet is part of China's territory and the US opposes Tibetan independence." "President Obama's engagement with Chinese leaders
should be consistent with established US policy and his desire for forward movement in the Tibetan-Chinese dialogue," vice
president of International Advocacy at the International Campaign for Tibet, Mary Beth Markey said.

It is the policy of the US that "the Tibet Autonomous Region and Tibetan autonomous counties and prefectures are part of the People's Republic of China." "The request from the Chinese government is not a matter of semantics but part of a concerted Chinese strategy to deflect international support for a resolution to the Tibet issue by seeking legitimacy for its claim to Tibet," said Markey. 
"President Obama should urge Chinese leaders to look to the future, as the Dalai Lama has done, and work purposefully toward a resolution that meets the aspirations of both the Tibetan and Chinese peoples," Markey said.

The International Campaign for Tibet said an Obama Administration statement, that Tibet is a part of China's territory, could be interpreted as recognition of Chinese sovereignty over Tibet prior to the 17 Point Agreement between the Tibetan and People's Republic of China governments (1951). A statement that the US opposes Tibetan independence could be interpreted as foreclosing any question of the past or future independence of Tibet in principle, it said.

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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