China howls but Dalai Lama draws crowd at human rights talk
GENEVA (AP) – The Dalai Lama appeared Friday at a Geneva human rights conference, despite China’s plea to diplomats to stay away from the event.
China’s U.N. mission in Geneva circulated a letter to other missions this week asking them to avoid the Tibetan spiritual leader’s appearance at a conference built around Nobel peace prize winners and co-sponsored by the United States and Canada.
Hundreds of supporters of the Dalai Lama, some waving Tibetan flags, rallied at the giant three-legged chair landmark outside the U.N. complex as he attended the packed-house conference nearby at Geneva’s Graduate Institute. The number of diplomats in the throng was unclear.
The Chinese mission’s letter dated Tuesday, the same day that press invitations for the conference were made, said the event was “of grave concern to China.”
It called the Dalai Lama “a political exile who has long been engaged in activities to split China under the pretext of religion,” and said the mission “kindly requests the permanent missions of all member states, U.N. agencies and relevant international organizations not to attend the above-mentioned event.”
The mission provided a copy of the letter to The Associated Press.
Referring to Tibet, the Dalai Lama told the conference: “We are not seeking separation” from China. However, he referred to a “totalitarian system” and “hardliners” in China. He said he had heard from some in China that change “may happen” at the 19th Communist Party meeting next year, though he did not elaborate.
Afterward, about a dozen heavily armed police stood watch as the Dalai Lama glad-handed the crowd outside the and addressing the supporters in Tibetan – primarily on religious and spiritual themes, according to attendees. Many were dressed in traditional costumes, and some danced.
The conference was billed as a side event to the ongoing U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva, where the U.S. and 11 other Western countries on Thursday expressed concerns about human rights in China, notably over the arrests of lawyers and activists in recent months, and “unexplained recent disappearances and apparent coerced returns” of Chinese citizens and foreigners to China.
China shot back on Friday with a statement from Ambassador Fu Cong on the mission’s Web site, accusing the United States of “hypocrisy and double standards on human rights issues.” Among other things, it cited “rampant” gun violence and the “deep-rooted malaise” of racism in the United States, and said the U.S. was “notorious for its abuses and torture at prisons at Guantanamo Bay.”
It cited “a huge number of civilian casualties” caused by U.S. drone strikes and said U.S. troops abroad “commit rape and murder of local people.”