Bush con­fronts Chi­nese leader over Ti­bet

Pres­i­dent scolds Be­jing’s crack­down by phone

The Covington News - - Religion - By Ter­ence Hunt

WASH­ING­TON — Pres­i­dent Bush sharply con­fronted China’s Pres­i­dent Hu Jin­tao on Wed­nes­day about Bei­jing’s harsh crack­down in Ti­bet, join­ing an in­ter­na­tional cho­rus of alarm just months be­fore the U.S. and the rest of the world pa­rade to China for the Olympics.

In a tele­phone call with Hu, Bush “pushed very hard” about vi­o­lence in Ti­bet, a ne­ces­sity for re­straint and a need for China to con­sult with rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Dalai Lama, the spir­i­tual leader of Ti­bet, the White House said.

Af­ter days of si­lence by Bush as other world lead­ers raised their voices, it marked a rare, di­rect protest from one pres­i­dent to an­other. As if to un­der­score how pointed Bush was, the White House said he used the call to “speak very clearly and frankly.”

At the same time, Bush was forced to ad­dress an em­bar­rass­ing blun­der by the United States — the shipment of nu­clear mis­sile fuses to Tai­wan and the fail­ure to dis­cover the er­ror for more than 18 months. “It came up very briefly,” Na­tional Se­cu­rity Ad­viser Stephen Hadley told re­porters. “Ba­si­cally, the pres­i­dent in­di­cated that a mis­take had been made. There was very lit­tle dis­cus­sion about it.”

Sec­re­tary of State Con­doleezza Rice had pre­vi­ously reg­is­tered con­cern about China’s ac­tions in Ti­bet, but Bush’s call raised the protest to the high­est level of the U.S. gov­ern­ment. On the world stage, French Pres­i­dent Ni­co­las Sarkozy no­tably has sug­gested a boy­cott of the Olympics open­ing cer­e­mony in Bei­jing in Au­gust.

The United States and Bri­tain have ruled out a boy­cott, and Bush has said he will at­tend. He has taken the po­si­tion that the Olympics are about ath­letic com­pe­ti­tion, not pol­i­tics.

China has de­fended its use of force against anti-Chi­nese pro­test­ers in Ti­bet, de­scrib­ing dem- on­stra­tions that broke out in the cap­i­tal city of Lhasa on March 14 as ri­ots and vi­o­lent crimes.

“No re­spon­si­ble gov­ern­ment would sit by and watch when faced with this kind of vi­o­lent crime, which gravely vi­o­lated hu­man rights, se­ri­ously dis­rupted so­cial or­der and se­ri­ously en­dan­gered the safety of pub­lic life and prop­erty,” Hu told Bush, ac­cord­ing to an ac­count by the of­fi­cial Chi­nese news agency Xin­hua.

China’s crack­down in re­sponse to the most sus­tained up­ris­ing against Chi­nese rule in al­most two decades has put Bei­jing’s hu­man rights record in the in­ter­na­tional spot­light, em­bar­rass­ing and frus­trat­ing a Com­mu­nist lead­er­ship that had hoped for a smooth run-up to the Olympic Games.

China on Wed­nes­day showed some signs of re­lent­ing, al­low­ing the first group of for­eign jour­nal­ists to visit Lhasa since the vi­o­lence be­gan. The re­porters were taken to Po­tala Square, be­low the Po­tala Palace, the tra­di­tional seat of Ti­betan rulers, which re­opened Wed­nes­day for the first time since March 14. Then re­porters were taken a few blocks away where many shops had been burned out dur­ing the vi­o­lence.

Hadley said Bush pressed for a re­sump­tion of now-sus­pended con­sul­ta­tions be­tween China and rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the Dalai Lama, and that there was an en­cour­ag­ing re­sponse from Hu.

“It was in­ter­est­ing that Pres­i­dent Hu said that the gov­ern­ment was will­ing to con­tinue con­tacts and con­sul­ta­tions with the Dalai Lama as long as ... there’s an aban­don­ment of Ti­betan in­de­pen­dence and stop­ping ac­tiv­i­ties that in­volve crimes and the use of vi­o­lence,” Hadley said.

Bush and Hu also ad­dressed the sen­si­tive sub­ject of Tai­wan, as well as North Korea’s fail­ure to hand over a promised dec­la­ra­tion of nu­clear weapon ef­forts and po­lit­i­cal re­pres­sion in Myan­mar.

The White House said Bush told Hu that the week­end elec­tion in Tai­wan of Ma Ying-jeou, who has promised to defuse ten­sions and ex­pand trade with China, would pro­vide “a fresh op­por­tu­nity for both sides to reach out and en­gage one an­other in peace­fully re­solv­ing their dif­fer­ences.”

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