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Monday, 18 August 2003
Page: 18691

Mr ORGAN (1:57 PM) —Today the Prime Minister is in Beijing meeting with senior members of the government of the People's Republic of China. It is hop-ed that during these discussions he will raise the issue of Tibet and the continuing human rights violations and political and religious persecution of its people by the Chinese authorities.

Last Thursday the Parliamentarians for Tibet group met with the Australia Tibet Council and the Dalai Lama's representative in Australia, Tenzin Phuntsok Atisha. Letters were sent to the Prime Minister requesting that he follow on from recent initiatives from the United States and the European parliament. On 12 May the American President presented to Congress a statement encouraging China to enter into substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama, with the goal of a negotiated agreement on Tibet attained via a policy of peace and nonviolence. On 8 July the European parliament met to consider recognition of the Tibetan government in exile as the legitimate representative of the Tibetan people.

The situation in Tibet remains grim with human rights abuses and cultural genocide continuing to occur. Tibetans today are tortured and imprisoned for merely holding a photo of the Dalai Lama, their spiritual leader. The fragile environment of the Tibetan plateau is also under extreme threat from the developmental policy of the Chinese government. In light of the upcoming Beijing Olympics in 2008, it is hoped that China will relax its position in regard to Tibet. Positive signs include the Chinese recently meeting with the Dalai Lama's representatives. I am sure that the people of Australia would applaud any and all initiatives by the Prime Minister and the government to promote the cause of peace and religious and political freedom in Tibet.