Dharamshala: “We see tremendous problems in Tibet,” US Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Tom Malinowski said during a special briefing on Wednesday, in Washington DC.
“We also urged greater access to Tibetan areas by diplomats and journalists on the basis of reciprocity,” he said, while briefing on the 19th round of the U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue.
The US has pressed hard on human rights issues including religious freedom and deteriorating situation in Tibet, while recognising the issue of Tibet as a priority of US government policy.
During a day-long US-China dialogue on human rights, the US pressed China on a number of human rights issues including the recent crackdown on lawyers and increasing tension in the Tibetan areas, Malinowski said.
He said these issues will feature very prominently in Xi’s meeting with President Barack Obama in September. “Today’s meetings also help set the stage â€“ and this is very, very important â€“ for the upcoming state visit in September of Chinese President Xi Jinping, where human rights will be very prominently addressed.”
“We suggested that China could reduce tensions in Tibetan areas by renewing dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives and by respecting the religious practices of Tibetan Buddhists, like their ability to select reincarnate lamas or to handle the deceased with proper rituals, Malinowski said.
“It’s [Tibet] absolutely a priority, and I mentioned it in my opening statement,” when asked whether or not the issue of Tibet is a top priority for US when it comes to China.
“We see tremendous problems in Tibet,” Malinowski said during the special press briefing, when asked his “assessment of human rights situation in Tibet.”
“But I think in this [Tibet] case, probably the best advice I would have to you is to look at our recently released Human Rights Report, which gives the full assessment of the wide range of problems.”
“The dialogue gave us a chance to convey in advance of that visit the growing sense of alarm in the US about human rights developments in China and to stress the importance of making specific improvements in keeping with China’s own laws and international commitments,” Malinowski said.
“The recent deterioration of the human rights situation and the Chinese Government’s increasing emphasis in its rhetoric and its laws on fighting what it calls, “cultural infiltration and Western influence” raises serious questions whether China remains on a long-term path towards greater openness and integration with the world or has begun to turn inward,” he said.
This trend harms the interests of the Chinese people most of all given China’s importance and influence is of great concern to the international community as a whole, he said.
Malinowski acknowledged that the Chinese delegation raised the issue of recent police attacks on certain sections of the society in the US.
“They did raise a couple of issues, although I have to say that the vast majority of the conversation concerned events in China. They raised, for example, the recent incidents of police violence.
“The Ferguson case was raised briefly and I actually thought this was quite interesting because they said ‘We all saw that on TV’ and my response, without in any way diminishing the seriousness of the problem that we are facing in the US, was, ‘Exactly, you saw it on TV because the Chinese state media was able to be in Ferguson and to cover those events nonstop from start to finish,” Malinowski said.
“The international media does not have that kind of access in China when there is violence, in Tibet or Xinjiang or in other parts of the country. Nor, I would add, did the US Government arrest the lawyers of Michael Brown or people who took video footage of the police violence,” he said.
“We discussed the Chinese Government’s crackdown on lawyers, which has resulted in over 250 attorneys, activists, and their family members being detained, questioned, interrogated, or held incommunicado.,” he said, adding: “many are still in custody, many reportedly have been denied access to defense counsel.
“Some have been forced to make televised confessions, actions as we explained today that run contrary to China’s own criminal procedure law.”
“We called for the immediate release of lawyers still being held and charged with crimes including Wang Yu, Zhou Shifeng, Li Heping, and Liu Xiaoyuan, among others,” he stressed.
“We also discussed other prominent cases of attorneys and legal activists who have been detained or imprisoned for peaceful activities,” he said.
He further added: The Chinese leadership’s recent fourth plenum emphasized ruling the country according to law, but it is hard to have rule of law when lawyers are arrested for defending their clients or when the government equates arguing a case in court with, quote, “creating a disturbance” or “picking a quarrel” two of the vague offenses under which lawyers and others have been prosecuted.
“Rule of law means that when there is a conflict between the primacy of the law and the preferences of the state, law takes precedence,” he added, saying “In China, the opposite appears increasingly to be the case.”
“In China, as in any other country, when legal avenues to resolve grievances are closed, those grievances don’t go away; they build up and the likelihood of social unrest and instability increases,” Malinowski said.