Pelosi backs Tibet against China

March 21st, 2008 - 3:12 pm ICT by admin  

(Lead)
By Baldev S. Chauhan
Dharamsala, March 21 (IANS) Speaker Nancy Pelosi of the US House of Representatives met the Dalai Lama here Friday and described the situation in Tibet as “a challenge to the consciousness of the world”. In comments signalling strong US support for the Tibetan struggle against Chinese rule, Pelosi said: “If we don’t talk for Tibet today, we have lost our moral right to talk for human rights.”

Pelosi, 67, arrived in this hill town, where the Dalai Lama has his government-in-exile, along with nine US Congressmen to meet the Tibetan spiritual leader, a move that has annoyed China.

The meeting is seen here as a bid to exert pressure on China, which Friday accepted that anti-Beijing protests had spread to other parts of Tibet from the capital Lhasa and that it had used force to suppress the rioters.

Chinese authorities say around 15 people have died in the violence - the worst in two decades - since March 10. But the Tibetan government-in-exile puts the death toll at close to 100.

“The Tibet situation is a challenge to the consciousness of the world,” Pelosi said after receiving a rousing welcome in this hill station, located 400 km north of New Delhi.

“The US shares a great relationship with Tibet and this relationship goes far behind.

“It is in our fate to help the people of Tibet and so we all must talk for Tibet. Thank you (the Tibetans) for the courage you give us,” she said.

Pelosi, an influential Democrat leader, made history last year when she became the first woman speaker of the House of Representatives.

She was a prime mover in the decision last year to honour the Dalai Lama with the Congressional Gold Medal, a top US civilian honour. China protested against the move.

Pelosi’s visit comes at a time when China has blamed “the Dalai clique” for “organised and pre-mediated violence” in Lhasa.

Amid growing unease over China’s crackdown on Tibetan protesters, US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice earlier this week called on Beijing to open talks with the Dalai Lama.

She renewed a US appeal for China to show restraint in Tibet, saying there was a “terrible situation” in the region.

In contrast, China has shown appreciation of India’s handling of the Tibetan protests but has advised “Indian friends” not to get carried away by “the Dalai clique”.

India, where the Dalai Lama has lived in exile since fleeing Tibet after a failed uprising in 1959, has called for a “non-violent” solution to the troubles and expressed “distress” at reports of the “unsettled situation and violence in Lhasa”.

The Dalai Lama favours autonomy for Tibet, having long given up calls for independence from China. But Beijing has shown no eagerness to engage the Dalai Lama in negotiations.

India is also home to some 100,000 Tibetan exiles, many of who fled Tibet with the Dalai Lama.

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