Exiled Tibet leader appeals to Australia

BY: ROWAN CALLICK From: The Australian : THE new political leader of the Tibetans in exile said in Melbourne yesterday that Australia could play an important role in brokering peace in Tibet by assessing the causes of the fractious situation on the ground there.

Thirty people have burned themselves to death in the past year in the latest wave of protest against the nature of Chinese rule, he said.

Lobsang Sangay, aged 43, a former Harvard academic, said Foreign Minister Bob Carr had asked ambassador to China Frances Adamson to visit Tibet to examine the situation, and that a parliamentary group had also planned a visit.

Dr Sangay, born in exile in India, is this week making his first visit to Australia since being elected Prime Minister a year ago. He won 55 per cent of the 49,000 votes cast, from among 83,400 eligible voters.

The 76-year-old Dalai Lama had decided to split the political and religious leadership roles, retaining only the latter, but continuing to travel globally.
He is now travelling in Italy, after a long visit to Britain during which he met Burmese leader and fellow Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi, and Prince Charles. Last month he met Prime Minister David Cameron.

Dr Sangay said his government was seeking genuine autonomy but not independence, even though “China would say we are interfering in its internal matters — we know the drill”.

He expressed disappointment that no senior Australian politician was willing to meet him during his visit: “To pose even an informal meeting in a coffee house as a threat to Australia’s business” with China comprises “a zero-sum attitude which is not necessary.”

Former Greens leader Bob Brown, a supporter of the Tibetan government in exile, said: “I think (the politicians) have their priorities wrong — Australians are very supportive of self-determination for Tibet.”

He said corporate Australia wished to focus on trade with China, without “the embarrassment of talking about ethical problems like democracy.”

Dr Sangay said that “if Australia gets more business relationships with China by not meeting the Dalai Lama, that’s a different story.

“But I don’t think that’s the case. The Australian people know best.”

He said Kevin Rudd’s apology to Aboriginal Australians provided a helpful model for how China might enlist Tibetan support.

“China would be better off in the eyes of the whole world, it would gain respect,” he said, if it did the same for Tibet.

Given Tibet’s experience of 50 years’ unchanging policy by China, “we don’t have reasons to be optimistic” about this year’s Chinese leadership transition triggering a new approach, he said, “but as human beings, we should always remain hopeful.”

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