Bush asks China to have a dialogue with Dalai Lama

March 15th, 2008 - 10:32 am ICT by admin  

By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 15 (IANS) As protests led by Buddhist monks against Chinese rule in Tibet turned violent, US President George Bush reiterated his call to Beijing to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. Regretting “the tensions between ethnic groups and Beijing,” White Hose spokesman Tony Fratto told reporters Friday: “We believe Beijing needs to respect Tibetan culture, they need to respect multi-ethnicity in their society.”

“The president has said consistently that Beijing needs to have a dialogue with the Dalai Lama,” he said when asked to comment on the Tibetan street protests and the Chinese government’s reactions to that.

Meanwhile, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told reporters Friday that Washington had urged Beijing to use restraint and put its “best face forward” ahead of Olympics later this year.

Concerned over the situation, US ambassador to China Clark Randt had met China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Yesui and urged the authorities to turn away from using force against the protestors.

“Ambassador Randt took the opportunity in a meeting with a senior Chinese official to urge that the Chinese government, in responding to protesters, turn away from use of force or violence,” he said but added he had not received any feedback from Randt on any Chinese assurances to observe restraint.

“I didn’t get a feedback from what Ambassador Randt heard. He did convey that urging to the Chinese government, though, in this meeting,” McCormack said.

Asked if the State Department had directly heard from the Dalai Lama calling on the US to intervene in this bloodshed, he said twice: “Not that I’m aware of. Not that I’m aware of.”

The US official also declined to confirm reports of violence in Lhasa saying he could not do so in the absence of anyone on the ground there. “There have been reports coming out via the media and that we have received through our embassy of violence in Lhasa.

“I can’t confirm those reports for you as we do not have anybody on the ground at the moment, but we will be looking into those reports and to try to get as full a picture as we possibly can about what has happened and what is ongoing,” he said.

Asking the Chinese government to respect Tibetan culture, as well as the multi-ethnic nature of China today, he said: “It is very important in our view and President Bush has expressed this view that the Chinese government open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and we continue to urge that.”

“Nobody benefits from violence, so nobody wants to see that. But we believe that it is very important that in responding to these protests that the Chinese government turn away from use of force or force or violence in responding to the protests,” Mc Cormack said.

Asked if he anticipated any change in US policy towards the Olympics based on this response in Tibet, the State Department official said: “Not that I’m aware of.”

“Our view very consistently is expressed by the president as well as other cabinet officials. We view the Olympics as a sporting event, an important international event. And it has been our counsel to China, both in public and the private, to use this international event to put China’s best face forward.

“We will continue to, as we have in the past, be at the forefront of engaging Chinese officials, engaging the Chinese government on important issues related to the fundamental universal freedoms in human rights,” he said.

The US “will do that in broad strokes, but also in terms of individual cases” as the Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice did on her last trip to Beijing. “And I think on basically every opportunity that she has or senior officials have, we do raise individual cases as well as talk about the wider issue,” he added.

“I would expect that we will continue that in the run-up to the Olympics and we’ll continue it after the Olympics. But it is our counsel to the Chinese government to put their best face forward to the world as they host this important international sporting event,” McCormack said.

From exile in India, the Dalai Lama has appealed to China not to use force to end the largest, most sustained demonstrations in nearly two decades against Beijing’s 57-year rule in Tibet.

China’s government in Tibet in turn accused the Dalai Lama’s supporters of inciting the unrest and imposed a curfew, ordering people to stay indoors.

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