Join our Mailing List

"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Obama-Hu Summit: the Good, the Bad & the Ugly

February 1, 2011

ICT blog, January 21, 2011

by Todd Stein


Good: when President Obama said: “The United States continues to support
further dialogue between the government of China and the representatives
of the Dalai Lama to resolve concerns and differences, including the
preservation of the religious and cultural identity of the Tibetan
people.” A positive affirmation of long-standing U.S. policy that gives
support to the Dalai Lama’s efforts, and should encourage other
countries to say the same thing, publicly.

Bad: when Obama said: “We, the United States, recognize that Tibet is
part of the People s Republic of China…” While this is U.S. policy, it
doesn’t need to be repeated and only empowers Beijing to press other
countries for such statements absent of key language on the dialogue (as

Ugly: when President Hu said: “China is willing to engage in dialogue
and exchanges with the United States on the basis of mutual respect and
the principle of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs.”
This is code for ‘Tibet is ours, stay out,’ belied by the fact that what
happens in Tibet could affect millions (as in melting glaciers and their
affect on major Asian rivers and those downstream).

Human rights

Good: when Obama said: “The United States speaks up for these freedoms
and the dignity of every human being, not only because it’s part of who
we are as Americans, but we do so because we believe that by upholding
these universal rights, all nations, including China, will ultimately be
more prosperous and successful.”

Bad: when Obama said: “China has a different political system than we
do. China is at a different stage of development than we are. We come
from very different cultures with very different histories.” This
expression of moral relativism essentially gives a free pass to Beijing,
who justifies the gross mistreatment of its citizens on the false
premise that there are eastern values distinct from western values.

Ugly: when Hu said: “China is always committed to the protection and
promotion of human rights.” If there were a virtual asterisk above Hu’s
head, it would have appeared at this moment.


Good: Images of the Tibetan flag, Hu Jintao as a “failed” leader, and a
“Tibet will be free” banner projected on the side of the Chinese
embassy. See image above. Kudos for the clever work of our friends at
Students for a Free Tibet.

Bad: Chinese television censored their own leader’s comments on human
rights. As reported by the Washington Post, Chinese censors cut off the
BBC broadcast of the joint press conference right after Hu said “a lot
still needs to be done…” on human rights.

Ugly: The pomp, circumstance and 21-gun salute accorded a foreign leader
with a horrendous human rights record. This is the first time in history
that a Nobel Peace Prize winner (Obama) has hosted a person (Hu) who has
incarcerated a fellow Peace Prize winner (Liu Xiaobo).


Good: Obama was proactive in signaling the importance of human rights in
the bilateral relationship. Days before the summit, he invited five
activists/academics to the White House to discuss “current challenges,
prospects for reform, and recommendations for U.S. policy.” The White
House also invited the Executive Director of Human Rights Watch to the
state dinner.

Bad: The Administration failed to include any Tibetans (or Uyghurs or
Mongolians) in any of the rights promotion activities before or during
the summit. While theirs is a struggle for basic rights too, these
peoples face additional suffering from Chinese assimilationist policies
that are destroying their culture.

Ugly: Hu’s Communist Party continued to incarcerate (and possibly
torture) Liu Xiaobo, Hu Jia, Dhondup Wangchen and Gheyret Niyaz for
merely exercising their right to free expression, while Hu himself
availed himself of full, free expression in the United States, where his
words were broadcast across the United States, uncensored. See above
about Hu’s own comments on human rights being censored back home.

[This blog posting and more can be found on ICT's blog: Ideas, Advocacy
and Dialog on Tibet]

Press contact:
Todd Stein
Director of Government Relations, ICT
Tel: +1 (202) 785-1515
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank