The US ambassador to China urged Beijing on Monday to re-examine policies toward Tibetans as he acknowledged that he had quietly visited monasteries during a spate of self-immolation protests.
US Ambassador to China Gary Locke, speaking from Beijing to an online forum in the US, said he stopped at monasteries last month in the flashpoint Aba Prefecture to “get an appreciation of Tibetan culture and the way of life.”
Aba, an ethnically Tibetan area of Sichuan Province, has been a hotbed of protests against Beijing’s rule. About 60 ethnic Tibetans, many of them monks and nuns, have set themselves alight since February 2009 in Sichuan and Tibet.
“We implore the Chinese to really meet with the representatives of the Tibetan people to address and re-examine some of the policies that have led to some of the restrictions and the violence and the self-immolations,” Locke said.
“We have very serious concerns about the violence, of the self-immolations, that have occurred over the last several years,” he said, calling the incidents “very deplorable.”
“Nobody wants that type of action, or of people having to resort to that type of action. Too many deaths,” he said.
Locke called for China to show respect for Tibetans’ religion, culture and language.
The US has repeatedly urged China to address Tibetan grievances, but it is very rare for foreign officials or media to visit Tibetan areas on unsupervised trips.
In previous statements, Washington has urged China’s leaders to resume dialogue with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 and enjoys strong public support in the US.
The Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday rejected what it called foreign interference and repeated its claim that the “Dalai group” is responsible for “instigating and masterminding” the self-immolations.
“At the same time, I want to point out that Tibetan affairs are China’s internal affairs,” Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman Hong Lei (洪磊). “We oppose any country or any person interfering in China’s internal affairs in any form.”
The details of Locke’s visit emerged as US President Barack Obama’s administration looks for new ways to promote human rights in China, which regularly lashes out at US condemnation of its record.
Obama has faced election-year criticism from Republican rivals, who have urged him to be more outspoken on Beijing’s human rights record and its trade and currency practices.
However, US officials cite as a success the quiet diplomacy in May that led China to allow dissident Chen Guangcheng (陳光誠) to move to New York.
Locke, who was responding to a question as part of a “China Town Hall” with citizens in 60 cities across the US, said he visited Aba Prefecture after a trip to the major cities in Sichuan, where he promoted US businesses.
Seven self-immolation protests were reported last week among Tibetans, many of whom accuse China of suppressing their culture. Few of the Tibetans who have set themselves alight are believed to have survived.
The US Department of State’s annual human rights reports say that China has denied the political and religious rights of Tibetans. China rejects the charges and says it has brought investment and modernization to Tibet.
Locke, the first Chinese-American to serve as US ambassador in Beijing, has often fascinated the Chinese public through his humble demeanour. When he headed to Beijing, a picture went viral on the Internet that showed the former governor at Seattle’s airport paying for his own coffee at a Starbucks.
Locke said he found the Chinese to be “so welcoming and engaging” toward him since he took his position.
SCHEDULE: The delegation is due to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen this morning and witness the signing of an MOU on bilateral health cooperation in the afternoon US Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS) Alex Azar yesterday arrived in Taipei aboard a US government plane at the head of a delegation that is the highest-level visit by a US official since Washington switched diplomatic recognition to China in 1979. Azar’s flight landed at Taipei International Airport (Songshan airport) at 4:48pm, nearly one hour earlier than scheduled, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said. The apron where it landed is reserved for military aircraft, the Songshan Air Force Base Command said. The members of Azar’s delegation included HHS Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response Robert Kadlec, HHS Chief of Staff Brian
CHINESE FIGHTERS: Beijing marked the US Cabinet member’s visit by briefly sending two warplanes across the median line of the Taiwan Strait yesterday morning President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) yesterday met with US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar in the highest-level official meeting between the two nations since 1979. “It is a true honor to be here to convey a message of strong support and friendship from [US] President [Donald] Trump to Taiwan,” Azar said during the open portion of his courtesy call to the Presidential Office, which was streamed live online before Tsai and Azar held a closed-door meeting. “Taiwan’s response to COVID-19 has been among the most successful in the world, and that is a tribute to the open, transparent,
PARTNERSHIP AND LEARNING: A Princeton University health policy researcher said that the nation would be a ‘treasure trove’ of information for the US health chief US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar on Friday said he wants to learn about Taiwan’s “incredibly effective” response to COVID-19, even though the nation did things that the US has fumbled, such as having a unified strategy and citizens willing to wear masks. Azar leads a US delegation arriving today for a three-day visit to Taiwan. They are to meet with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and health system leaders, and Azar is to give a speech to public health graduates. “The message of this trip is about Taiwan,” Azar said in an interview, deflecting a question about China.
CHASTISING CHINA: Taiwan’s approach to combating the coronavirus stands in stark contrast to the country where the outbreak began, the US health secretary said International organizations are not the place to play politics, especially when the matter relates to healthcare, US Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar said in Taipei yesterday, adding that the region and the world are safer because of Taiwan’s commitment to health promotion. On the third day of his visit, the highest-level visit by a senior US Cabinet official in decades, Azar met with Minister of Foreign Affairs Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) at the Grand Mayfull Hotel in Zhongshan District (中山) yesterday morning, following his meetings with President Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) and Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中)