News / Asia

Australia Presses China for Tibet Visit

Tibetan exiles pray next to the burning funeral pyre of 27-year-old Jamphel Yeshi, who passed away Wednesday morning two days after he immolated himself in New Delhi, in Dharmsala, India, March 30, 2012.
Tibetan exiles pray next to the burning funeral pyre of 27-year-old Jamphel Yeshi, who passed away Wednesday morning two days after he immolated himself in New Delhi, in Dharmsala, India, March 30, 2012.
Phil Mercer
— Analysts say China’s hardline stance on denying most diplomatic visits to Tibetan areas of the country will continue.  Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr has said that Canberra’s ambassador in Beijing, Frances Adamson, has been trying unsuccessfully for a year to visit the autonomous region to investigate why Tibetan activists continue to set themselves on fire, in protests against the Chinese authorities.

Kerry Brown, the executive director of the China Studies Center at the University of Sydney, says the authorities in Beijing are not keen to allow outside scrutiny of the disputed region.

“Normally a diplomatic visit by an Australian would not be a problem.  I mean, these have happened and I suppose this shows just how sensitive this issue is, you know, how nervous the leadership is," Brown noted.  "It really, kind of, is a kind of indicator of just how difficult an area of, you know, activity and policy this is at the moment.”   

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No country openly disputes Beijing's claim to sovereignty over Tibet. But the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, says Tibet was once independent and has been colonized by China.  He now advocates for greater Tibetan autonomy, but not independence. Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of overseeing a secessionist campaign and of organizing the immolations.

Brown says, with a new leadership team in place in Beijing, it is highly unlikely China’s stance on Tibet will soften.

“Tibet arouses for the Chinese government a particular set of issues about their legitimacy, about claims about their lack of human rights granted to ethnic Tibetans.  The bottom line, I think, is it is an issue about which they do not want particular dialogue with outside parties.  They are increasingly not in the mood to listen to, you know, any kinds of external lectures,”   Brown said.

Canberra is pushing Beijing for more regular meetings between officials and ministers, similar to those Australia already has in place with countries like the United States, but China has yet to respond to the proposal.

Australian Foreign Minister Bob Carr says the new arrangements could include an annual summit between the Australian prime minister and Chinese president, as well as separate meetings between foreign and economic ministers.

China is Australia’s biggest trading partner.  The export of minerals, including iron ore, is at the heart of a relationship that has helped the government in Canberra maintain economic growth despite the global financial crisis.

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