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Top US, New Zealand leaders asked to take up Tibet, human rights during China visits

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(, Jun17’23) – Ahead of his planned visit to China over Jun 16-21, a total of 42 human rights groups, including 10 Tibet groups, have urged US Secretary of State Antony Blinken to convey messages of intent to take concrete actions, rather than just raise the issues, in his meetings there. Also, Sikyong (executive head) Penpa Tsering of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), touring New Zealand, has asked Prime Minister Chris Hipkin to raise the issue of Tibet, including its autonomy, during his planned visit to China at the end of this month.

The main, long-standing Tibet concerns include the human rights situation under Chinese rule, China’s assimilation-campaign to destroy the Tibetan national identity, and the resolution of the Sino-Tibetan dispute. China refuses to discuss any of these issues, denying their very existence, and accusing those raising them of interfering in its internal affairs.

“At a time when the Chinese government is committing widespread and grave human rights violations both inside and outside China, it is crucial for you to use the opportunity of your visit to inform your counterparts that the United States intends to work alongside other concerned governments to seek accountability for Chinese government abuses,” said the 42 groups in their joint letter to Blinken dated Jun 14.

These groups are engaged in reporting on and advocating for human rights in China, Hong Kong, Tibet, and Xinjiang. They have expressed disappointment that decades of human rights diplomacy by foreign governments had failed to deter Chinese authorities, particularly President Xi Jinping, from deepening repression.

The groups have urged Blinken to “Inform your Chinese counterparts of the intent of the United States to join with a diverse coalition of states to support international investigations into atrocity crimes in Xinjiang.”

They have also urged Blinken to “call on the Chinese authorities to immediately release all human rights defenders and end persecution of their families,” including some named prominent Uyghur, Tibetan, Hong Kong and mainland Chinese individuals.

They have also called on Blinken to “urge your counterparts to follow the recommendations of UN experts and bodies to immediately abolish the coercive boarding school system imposed on Tibetan children.”

And they wanted Blinken to “inform your counterparts that the US authorities will vigorously investigate and appropriately prosecute acts of repression by Chinese officials and their proxies in the US that violate US and state law, including harassing, intimidating, and carrying out surveillance of critics of the Chinese government, and that the US government will work with allies to do the same in their countries.”

The top US diplomat will travel to the Chinese capital as the United States works to rectify normal channels of communications amid ongoing tensions between the two nations, including two military-related incidents in recent weeks. Blinken was originally set to travel to Beijing in early February, but postponed his trip due to a Chinese spy balloon transiting the US, reported the Jun 14, citing a statement from his State Department.

He is the first Cabinet official to travel to China under the Biden administration, and the first since 2019.

* * *

Meanwhile, Sikyong Penpa Tsering, who reached New Zealand Jun 14 night for a three-day visit to meet members of the Tibetan community, Tibetan supporters, and MPs, has asked Prime Minister Hipkins to raise the issue of Tibet’s autonomy during his visit to China, reported the Jun 15.

Calling the situation in Tibet “very grim”, he has said: “Our culture is being destroyed. The very identity of the Tibetan people is being destroyed. There is no political space whatsoever and there is no religious freedom.”

Tsering wanted Hipkins to raise concerns about Tibet as well, saying: “We are committed to the middle-way policy as proposed by his holiness the Dalai Lama, and if China has commonsense … New Zealand as a friend should advise that Tibetans are not seeking independence but autonomy.”

During his visit capital Wellington, after Auckland, Tsering had a luncheon with members of parliament from different political groups organised by MP Simon O’Connor, National Party Spokesperson for Foreign Affairs and Co-Chair of Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China.

MP James McDowall of the ACT political party attended the meeting while MP Helen White of the Labour Party and MP Golriz Gharaman of the Green Party virtually joined the meeting, said the CTA on its website Jun 16.

Hipkins’s visit will takes place amid concerns about foreign interference in his country. It will be the first visit by a New Zealand leader to China since 2019, the report said.

Hipkins has not been able to confirm if he had secured a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping, the report said.

After Auckland and Wellington, Tsering will travel to Australia where he will address the National Press Club (NPC) on Jun 20. The Chinse embassy in late May tried, unsuccessfully, to get the club to disinvite Tsering from the event, which will receive a major exposure in the country’s media.


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