MONTREAL - On International Human Rights Day and the eve of Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao's first visit to Ottawa, the Canada Tibet Committee (in collaboration with Tibetan Youth Congress and Students for a Free Tibet) is calling upon Jean Chrétien and Paul Martin to include Tibet in their agenda for discussions with Wen. Hundreds of Tibetans and their Canadian supporters are holding a Tibet negotiations rally during Premier Wen's first official visit to Ottawa.
The recent renewal of direct contacts between representatives of the Dalaï Lama and Beijing has energized the Tibetan diaspora and its supporters. In Canada, 124 Members of Parliament have signed a letter in support of the "Tibet-China Negotiation Campaign." This initiative urges Canada's Prime Minister to serve as honest broker in the dialogue, which could be the forerunner of real negotiations on Tibet's future.
The Dalaï Lama, who visits Canada in April 2004, has reaffirmed his "middle-path" approach towards negotiations. Speaking in Italy last month, he emphasized his long-standing position not to seek independence for his homeland, but instead a genuine autonomy within the Chinese political system.
Despite the Dalaï Lama's assurances, Premier Wen Jiabao recently told the Washington Post that China is maintaining its standard preconditions for negotiations - namely that the Dalaï Lama renounce independence for both Tibet and Taiwan.
"We are asking the Prime Minister of Canada to use his positive relationship with China to eliminate obstacles and ease the current dialogue ahead towards negotiations without preconditions. We are not asking Canada to take a position on Tibet's political status," says Thubten Samdup, National President of the Canada Tibet Committee. "Canada is the perfect country to play such a crucial role on the Tibet issue."
Although Paul Martin is set to take office on December 12, the day after the Ottawa visit of Wen Jiabao, Tibetans say that he should state his support for negotiations on Tibet both publicly and in private talks with Chinese officials, in recognition of the growing consensus in the Canadian Parliament and public support.
"Paul Martin has said that Canadian foreign policy must always express the concerns of Canadians and Parliament must be the peoples' messenger to Ottawa," Samdup adds. "Parliament has sent a clear message on the Tibet issue. Now is the time to work together and take action."
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Contact: Thubten Samdup, President, Canada Tibet Committee: (514) 867-6770 (cell)
CTC National Office at 514.487.0665
Visit www.tibet.ca for background information about:
· Pro-negotiation rallies on December 11 in Ottawa
· Tibet-China Negotiation Campaign (i.e. up-to-date list of supporting MPs, letter to PM)
· Background on the Tibet negotiations process