US to hold 18th Human Rights Dialogue with China

July 27, 2013 9:20 pm

DHARAMSHALA: Ahead of its annual human rights dialogue with China scheduled for 30-31 July, the US has underscored that promotion of human rights remains a key tenet of US foreign policy, including toward China.

US Acting Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Uzra Zeya and Chinese Foreign Ministry of Foreign Affairs Department of International Organizations and Conferences Director General Li Junhua will lead dialogue in Kunming, China.

“The two sides will discuss rule of law, freedom of religion, freedom of expression, labor rights and rights of ethnic minorities, and other human rights issues over the course of the dialogue,” said US state department spokesperson Jen Psaki.

“The US delegation will also visit Beijing for discussions with officials and civil society representative. The promotion of human rights remains a key tenet of US foreign policy, including toward China, and we are committed to continuing candid and in-depth discussion with the Chinese government on this issue,” Ms Psaki said.

“The human rights dialogue provides an important opportunity to elaborate on our concerns about China’s human rights record and to encourage progress, building on engagement on this topic throughout the year,” she said.

The dialogue is taking place against the backdrop of alarming escalation in self-immolations by Tibetans to protest against the Chinese government’s repressive rule. Since 2009 over 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibet, calling for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibetans.

Secretary of State John Kerry had raised concerns over the human rights situation in Tibet during the two-day US-China Strategic and Economic Dialogue held earlier this month.

Self-immolations in Tibet

The dialogue is taking place against the backdrop of alarming escalation in self-immolations by Tibetans to protest against the Chinese government’s repressive rule. Since 2009 over 120 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibet, calling for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibetans. The Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala has repeatedly appealed to Tibetans not to resort to drastic actions, including self-immolation.

The US state department in its annual human rights report said that Tibetans in Tibet faced severe religious repression and societal discrimination.

In June this year, the US Ambassador to China, Mr Gary Locke, made a rare Chinese government-sponsored visit to Tibet’s capital Lhasa. During his meeting with local officials, Mr Locke lobbied for opening access to Tibet to foreign diplomats, journalists and tourists and stressed the “importance of preserving the Tibetan people’s cultural heritage, including its unique linguistic, religious and cultural traditions.”

“We remain concerned by the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas, including the tragic self-immolations. The US urges Beijing to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions,” US Embassy deputy spokesman Justin Higgins had said on ambassador Locke’s visit to Tibet.

The Chinese government has imposed tight restrictions on foreign diplomats, the international media and tourists from visiting Tibet.