|U.S. reiterates opposition to "Tibet independence" (03/17/09)|
WASHINGTONG, March 16 (Xinhua) -- U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary John Norris said here Monday that Tibet is part of China and the United States does not support "Tibet independence."
Norris, U.S. deputy assistant secretary for East Asian and Pacific affairs, made the remarks when meeting with a delegation of Tibetan deputies of China's National People's Congress (NPC).
The five-member delegation, led by Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak, a living Buddha of the Kagyu sect of the Tibetan Buddhism, met on Monday with U.S. officials and researchers in the U.S. capital.
"I am very happy to have the chance to talk with them," Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak, also vice chairman of the Standing Committee of the People's Congress of the Tibet Autonomous Region, told Xinhua.
"I think they are interested in Tibet. But I do feel that they do not see the full picture of Tibet," he said.
During talks between the Tibetan deputies and Norris and other officials of the U.S. Department of State, the two sides discussed religious freedom in Tibet.
"I think any one who has been to Tibet will be able to tell whether there is religious freedom or not in Tibet," Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak said. "Buddhist followers with prayer wheels in hand are a common sight on Lhasa's streets."
Freedom of religious belief is written in the Chinese Constitution.
"Tibet now has more than 1,700 religious sites, about 46,000 monks and nuns," Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak said, quoting government statistics.
In response to questions about the March 14 riots in Lhasa last year, Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak said the incident, in which at least 18 civilians were killed, was by no means a "peaceful protest."
"Mobs also set fire to shops and houses. Criminals involved in the riots should be punished according to law," he said.
During talks with the U.S.-Asia Institute, the Tibetan lawmakers answered questions concerning contacts between the Chinese central government and the private envoys of the Dalai Lama.
"The policy of the central government on this issue has been consistent," Shingtsa Tenzinchodrak said.
"As long as he (the Dalai Lama) gives up separatist activities, the central government is willing to contact with his envoys. This door has always been open," he said.
A private, non-governmental organization devoted to fostering understanding and ties between the U.S. and Asian countries, the U.S.-China Institute has arranged for many U.S. congressional delegations to visit China over the past years.
"Having any dialogue is helpful," Benjamin H. Wu, president of the U.S.-Asia Institute, told Xinhua after the talks.
"The U.S.-Asia is very happy to host the first delegation from Tibet of the National People's Congress. We had an opportunity to discuss a number of issues of importance to both the delegation as well as to the (U.S.) Congress," he said.
"It was an opportunity for us to help strengthen the U.S.-China relationship by having open and honest airing of views so that each side understood where the concerns are," he said.
Jeffrey Wrase, Senate Republican chief economist, who was invited by the U.S.-Asia Institute to join the talks, said he frequently felt that many reports on Tibet were written by those who had never been to Tibet, which made him very suspicious.
He said he was planning for a trip to Tibet this August so that he would have a chance to see a real Tibet.
The delegation also had separate talks with research fellows and assistants of the U.S. Congress on Monday.