Tibet campaigners pin hope on Obama

November 6th, 2008 - 5:10 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack ObamaKathmandu, Nov 6 (IANS) Campaigners for greater rights and religious freedom for Tibetans under Chinese rule have hailed the victory in US presidential polls of Barack Obama, saying that they hoped for greater American initiatives during his government. “The Tibetan people will have a friend and strong supporter in President-elect Obama,” said John Ackerly, president of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT).

“This is a critical time for the Tibetan issue and we are confident that the Obama administration will continue the existing support for Tibet and provide new energy for the efforts of the Dalai Lama to engage with the Chinese government.”

Ackerly said that going by what Obama had said about Tibet in the past, the ICT expected “even stronger initiatives from the US in the future.”

Democrat Obama is regarded as having a strong record of support for Tibet. He has met the Tibetan exiled leader, the Dalai Lama, to discuss human rights issues.

Obama attended a private Senate Foreign Relations Committee briefing with the Dalai Lama in November 2005 and his photograph with the Nobel Peace Laureate featured in his presidential campaign website.

Obama had also personally urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to resolve the situation in Tibet through dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, and this spring, when demonstrations wracked China-annexed Tibet, he telephoned the Dalai Lama in India to discuss the situation.

Obama was also a Senate sponsor of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama Congressional Gold Medal Act, which awarded the nation’s highest civilian honour to the Dalai Lama in October 2007, an act that angered China.

Obama and his running mate Joe Biden pledged in their campaign to actively engage China on a number of issues, including human rights in Tibet and China’s crackdown on democracy and religious freedom activists.

The campaign pledged to “be frank with the Chinese about such failings” and to “press them to respect human rights.”

Among the senior foreign policy advisors to the Obama campaign was Gregory B. Craig, the first US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, appointed by then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1996.

Washington has been a staunch advocate of Tibetan rights at home and abroad.

In Nepal, where hundreds of Tibetan refugees had been protesting since March against the crackdown in Tibet, Washington rapped the Nepal government for the deployment of brutal force on unarmed protesters.

It is also trying to provide asylum to about 5,000 Tibetans living in Nepal, a move that has so far been blocked due to pressure by the Chinese government.

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