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US House Speaker Rebukes China on Tibet Crackdown

By Anjana Pasricha
New Delhi
21 March 2008

U.S. House speaker, Nancy Pelosi, says Tibet presents a challenge to the world's conscience, and has called for an international investigation into the causes of the recent unrest in the region which China controls. China has retaliated by saying Tibet is its own affair. Anjana Pasricha has a report from New Delhi.

The strong message from the U.S. House of Representatives speaker, Nancy Pelosi, came on Friday after she met Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala, where his government-in-exile is based.

Pelosi is on a visit to India. She is the first senior foreign official to meet the Dalai Lama since international attention turned on Tibet following a crackdown by Chinese authorities on last week's violent, anti-government protests.

Thousands of cheering Tibetans greeted Pelosi in Dharamsala. She said the world needs to raise its voice on the Tibet issue.

"Speaking for myself I would say that if freedom loving people throughout the world do not speak out against China's oppression, and China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world," she said.

She called for an outside investigation into the violence in Tibet, and said China's claims that the Dalai Lama orchestrated the protests in the region made no sense. She said Beijing should open the region to independent monitors and the international media.

Pelosi says Tibet presents a challenge to the conscience of the world.

"It is a challenge to the conscience of the world that I hope that we can help meet," she added. "It is a situation where we need to know what is happening there and the world needs to know. And so we come here and say to you, we are with you to meet that challenge."

Pelosi's strong words drew an equally strong response from the Chinese ambassador, Zhang Yan, in New Delhi. He told reporters that Tibet is China's internal affair, and "no country, organization or person should utter irresponsible words."

"We don't allow any country to meddle in China's internal affairs, and any attempt to cause troubles to China [is] doomed to failure," he said.

The international community has called for restraint from China in handling the recent violence in Tibet, where rights groups say resentment against Chinese rule runs deep.

China says the violence was orchestrated by the Dalai Lama to sabotage the upcoming Olympic Games in Beijing.

China has controlled Tibet since 1951. The Dalai Lama, who fled the region in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule, says Tibet's unique culture is in danger of being swamped by the Chinese, and wants more autonomy for the region.

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