In his first-ever meeting with President Jiang Zemin this week, President Bush promoted dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama, following through with a commitment he made to the Dalai Lama in their White House meeting in May.
Paula Dobriansky, the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, also traveled to Shanghai as part of the President’s delegation to the APEC (Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation) forum.
“While it has become common for heads of state to stress dialogue on Tibet with the Chinese government, Dobriansky’s participation in these talks is significant, given that Chinese officials systematically shunned Gregory Craig and Julia Taft, the previous two Tibet coordinators,” said John Ackerly, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.
Dobriansky, who serves as Undersecretary of State for Global Affairs, was appointed the U.S. Tibet coordinator in May 2001. Her central responsibility in that role is to promote the policy of the United States to encourage Chinese leaders at the highest level to initiate dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives.
“Her involvement brings a focus on Tibet, even within a shortened agenda,” said Ackerly.
The President’s trip to China was originally to include two days of bilateral discussions in Beijing after APEC but his trip was cut short after the September terrorist attacks. Since that time official statements from Beijing have suggested a linkage between its cooperation to combat international terrorism and its broad crackdown against so-called ‘splittists.’
In response to these statements, National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice said on October 15: “It is clearly our job to make certain that we continue to draw a line in all of our discussions between legitimate dissent or legitimate movements for the rights of minorities and the fact that there may be international terrorists in various parts of the world, we would do that in our discussions with the Chinese.”
“Appropriately, China’s attempts to characterize the Dalai Lama and his efforts toward dialogue as dangerous activity were not well received by the Bush Administration,” said Ackerly.
“But we are concerned that the U.S. is considering waiving Tiananmen-era sanctions which could allow spare parts for Black Hawk helicopters be sold to China,” said Ackerly. “Waiving this sanction is a dangerous idea because these helicopters have been used to suppress Tibetans.”
Sikorsky Black Hawk helicopters, designed for high-altitude use, were used by Chinese authorities during Tibetan demonstrations in 1988 and 1989.
“While security concerns and economic development will dominate this meeting, we urge the President to avoid sacrificing rights concerns for coalition building and ‘western development’ projects,” said Ackerly.
“The President should cast a critical eye on Beijing-backed development activities in Tibet, such as the Qinghai-Tibet railway project, which further China’s military control and cultural assimilation of Tibet.”