(TibetanReview.net, Jun06’23) – Demanding that Australia give primary importance to its propaganda claims on the Tibet issue over any commitment to free speech, China has called for the cancellation of a scheduled appearance at the National Press Club (NPC) this month of the executive head, Sikyong Mr Penpa Tsering, of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA).
The CTA is effectively Tibet’s government-in-exile.
Officials from the Chinese embassy met with the press club’s chief executive, Maurice Reilly, in Canberra last week to convey their unhappiness about Mr Penpa Tsering’s Jun 20 scheduled appearance and to ask for his invitation to be revoked, reported the smh.com.au Jun 5.
Expressing outrage over the scheduled event, the embassy has argued in a letter handed to Reilly, “China expresses strong dissatisfaction and firm opposition to Australia, in disregard of China’s position and concern, allowing him to use the NPC platform to engage in separatist activities.”
China has sought to make it clear that nothing less than Sino-Australian relations were at stake, although this is not a government-organized or -sponsored event.
“The Chinese side urges the Australian side to see through the nature of the Dalai clique, respect China’s core interests and major concerns, and take concrete actions to remove the negative effects so as to prevent the disruption of the sound development of China-Australia relations and media co-operation,” the letter was quoted as saying.
China has also sought to drive home its propaganda narrative on the situation in Tibet, referring to it by its own name Xizang. “People of all ethnic groups in the Xizang Autonomous Region endorse wholeheartedly the policies of China’s central government and the regional government … It is a fact acknowledged by unbiased people that the human rights situation in Xizang is at its best in history.”
* * *
China is concerned by the Jun 20 event apparently because NPC speeches are broadcast on the country’s broadcasting service ABC and are usually attended by senior members of the Canberra press gallery.
Reilly has said there were no plans to cancel Penpa’s appearance, for which tickets were already for sale on the press club’s website.
He has pushed back on China’s attempted meddling by telling the embassy officials that the press club was “an institution for free speech, free media and public debate”.
“The meeting was cordial, but they expressed the view quite strongly that Penpa Tsering speaking at the club was offensive to China’s interests as he represents a separatist movement and would the club review the invitation,” Reilly has said.
Reilly has also made it clear to the Chinese that while the “speakers can put their views’ during the media event, “our media members can ask questions and challenge those views as they see fit.”
Penpa’s predecessor, Mr Lobsang Sangay, appeared at the press club in Aug 2017, the report noted.