The accreditation of a Tibetan NGO to a UN conference became the focus of full General Assembly vote in New York today for the first time since 1965. China objected to the UN’s recommendation of accrediting the International Campaign for Tibet, but the matter went for a General Assembly vote when the European Union refused to go along with China’s objection.

Out of 189 potential voting nations, 93 voted against accrediting ICT, 44 voted for, 16 abstained and 40 did not vote or were not present. Pakistan and Cuba spoke up on behalf of China’s motion. The EU was a aggressive advocate for ICT noting ICT’s positive contribution to the UN’s World Conference Against racism last year, to which it was accredited.

“We are obviously disappointed that China prevailed on this vote but we are pleased that most of the world’s major democracies voted for us or abstained,” said Bhuchung Tsering, Director of ICT, who was at the UN for the vote. “We lost this vote but Tibet is squarely back on the international agenda and there to stay,” said Tsering.

“Ironically, China itself raised the status of Tibet in the UN General Assembly to its highest level in decades and made the political status of Tibet the focus of the debate,” Mr. Tsering continued.

The vote also exemplifies China’s growing influence at the United Nations and the incredible sensitivity of China towards the issue of Tibet. “Today’s vote is less a reflection of lack of support for Tibet in the UN than a reflection of China’s fierce and powerful lobbying force,” said Tsering.

China’s efforts to block ICT’s accreditation avoided a discussion of ICT’s qualifications regarding sustainable development in Tibet, and centered on political question of Tibetan independence, even though ICT does not take a stand of the question of independence.

“Though ‘splitting Tibet from China’ is nowhere in our mandate, the fact that 44 of the world’s strongest and most influential democracies voted in support of an issue that China made about Tibetan independence, is encouraging,” said John Ackerly, President of ICT.

“China has once again tried to deny a voice to the Tibetan people, but such repressive tactics will never subdue the desire of Tibetans to speak for themselves,” said Tsering. “We want to thank all of freedom loving countries who believe that UN conferences should not exclude any people or NGOs who represent them,” said Tsering.

Authoritarian countries around the world supported China, including Myanmar, Iraq, Sudan and others. India and Brazil abstained and virtually all of the newly-emerging democracies in eastern Europe voted for ICT’s inclusion.

Representatives of ICT intend to go to the World Summit in partnership with other organizations to give voice to Tibetans and discuss sustainable development in Tibet.