The Australian Government is being criticized for not meeting the Dalai Lama but hosting the visit of Guo Jinlong, First Secretary of the Communist Party in the Tibet Autonomous Region. Guo is due to arrive in Canberra on June 6, 2002 and the Australian Foreign Minister Alexander Downer is meeting him on June 7.

Tibet and human rights groups have suggested that the Australian Government should arrange for a meeting with them to talk about the situation in Tibet.

“The Government invitation to Mr. Guo Jinlong is taking place immediately after the visit of the Dalai Lama, who was not met by the government. This visit inevitably gives rise to questions as to the Australian government’s position on the issue of human rights in Tibet” said Amnesty International spokesperson David Raper on June 5, 2002.

In a letter to Foreign Minister Downer on June 4, Amnesty suggested that Guo be invited to open dialogue with the Tibetan community and concerned NGOs. “This would enable the human rights situation in Tibet to be discussed, the minimal improvement in that situation in recent months to be explored and it may in part counteract the impression that Australia is circumscribing its human rights position on Tibet at the behest of the Chinese Government,” Amnesty said.

The Australian Tibet Council (ATC) also wrote to Downer asking him not to meet Guo. “There couldn’t be a more powerful sign of the government’s approval of China’s rule in Tibet,” ATC President Alex Butler told the Australian news agency AAP on June 5.

“Australians will be disgusted if Ministers who last week ignored the Dalai Lama are lining up next week to meet the man who imposes Chinese rule in Tibet,” said Butler. “Instead, Guo Jinlong should be given an opportunity to publicly justify the human rights abuses he’s responsible for – especially to former Tibetan political prisoners now living in Australia.”

ATC has proposed that Guo should be invited to participate in a special open session of the Australia China Bilateral Human Rights Dialogue. The Tibetan community in Australia should also be invited as observers, with former political prisoners now living in Australia given an opportunity to speak to the Communist Party Secretary about their experiences.

Guo’s visit is not funded by Australia and was organized by the Chinese embassy, the Department of Foreign Affairs said.AusAID, the Australian Government’s overseas aid program, invited Guo at the request of the Chinese Embassy, according to the Australian Foreign Affairs Department.