Tibetans and Tibet supporters in Canada challenged China’s claim that everything was fine in Tibet by asking it to provide free access to international organizations like Amnesty International. The Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) President Thubten Samdup made this assertion on July 26, 2004 following a talk by Jampa Phuntsok, Chairman of the Tibet Autonomous Region, at the National Press Club in Ottawa.
In his statements and interviews, Phuntsok charged Tibetans and Tibet supporters with not reflecting the reality about Tibet and asked people to visit Tibet to see for themselves. Canadian MP David Kilgour was, however, skeptical. “I would be delighted if it happened,” Kilgour told AFP. “I would be even more delighted if it could be an unrestricted visit,” he added.
In his interview to Radio Free Asia, Samdup recalled a similar invitation made in April 1999 by the then Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji. During a farewell dinner in Victoria, BC on April 19, 1999, Zhu Rongji said that “he’d fly protesters to Tibet so they could see the situation firsthand in the Chinese-controlled territory,” according to CBC. When the Tibetans and Tibet supporters followed this up with the Chinese Embassy saying their people were ready to make the trip there was no response, Samdup told RFA.
Phuntsok also reiterated the official Chinese position on the Dalai Lama and on negotiations on Tibet, including the precondition that the Dalai Lama should give up Tibetan independence. Phuntsok repeated this in his interview to Canadian TV, CTV. CTV, however, pointed out in a report, “But during his visit a few months ago, the Dalai Lama stressed he didn’t want an independent Tibet, suggesting Tibet might benefit from remaining in China.”
Members of Canada Tibet Committee, Tibetan Youth Congress, Students for a Free Tibet, and the Tibetan Women’s Association held a vigil in Ottawa on July 26, 2004 when Phuntsok arrived at the National Press Club. Although the Press Club had announced that Phuntsok and the other Tibetans would speak in Tibetan, they spoke in Chinese, reported Voice of America’s Tibetan service. This surprised the people gathered at the venue, according to the VOA broadcast.
Samdup also told RFA that the Tibetan community in Canada had informed the Chinese Embassy in Ottawa that they wanted to invite the fellow Tibetans from Tibet for a meal. He said this was being done with the best of intentions. However, there was no response from the Embassy to this invitation, Samdup said.