Australia Tibet Council

Enabling everyone in Australia to be part of change in Tibet

The Dalai Lama Arrives on Thursday 9 June

Published in Blog
Thursday, 02 June 2011

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8 June 2011

It's exciting! The Dalai Lama will arrive in Melbourne tomorrow (Thursday). Last week he opened a new chapter in Tibetan history from his headquarters in Dharamsala as he officially passed on Tibet's political baton to a democratically-elected leadership in exile. We are expecting a lot of discussion in the media and in the parliament as his visit to Australia will be his first international trip in the wake of this significant milestone for the Tibetan people. As part of my work, I will be travelling with His Holiness across five cities for 11 days. You can follow my blogs here. Email us today at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. if you would like me to send you the daily blogs during the tour. Join us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter for live updates. Read more

4 May 2011

Prime Minister Julia Gillard wrapped up her meetings with the Chinese leadership last week, declaring Australia's relationship with China is "in good shape" and paying rich tributes to China's contribution towards a strong Australian economy. Her trip to Beijing took place against a backdrop of the Chinese government's toughest crackdown on its civil society in recent years. It also coincided with the deepening unrest at a monastery of 2500 monks in eastern Tibet after a young monk burnt himself in a final act of protest. So how did Prime Minister Gillard handle the human rights issue in China and the unfolding tragic situation in Tibet, of which she was informed prior to her visit? Going by media reports and judging from the language used to raise the issue, Gillard scored high in the diplomacy test. In her meetings with Premier Wen Jiabao, she sought assurances that "China is not taking a backwards step on human rights", to which Wen replied that it was not. Prime Minister, it is not about going backward, but "moving forward" (to borrow your own words). She raised the names of two individuals - Australian-Chinese businessmen Stern Hu and Matthew Ng serving jail term on charges of stealing commercial secrets and embezzlement respectively. But what about Liu Xiaobo, a democracy activist and last year's Nobel Peace Prize winner, sentenced for 11 years in prison for his writing? What about the world-renowned artist and government critic Ai Weiwei, whose whereabouts remains unknown since his detention at Beijing international airport early last month? On the issue of Tibet, we didn't hear any mention of it - certainly not publicly. Gillard told reporters that she expressed her concerns over the treatment of "ethnic minorities" and the question of religious freedom. My guess is she ticked off the Tibet box with that comment. How can China continue to escape being held to account by the international community for its appalling human rights record? Gillard underlined the annual Australia-China Human Rights Dialogue as the centrepiece of Australia's engagement with China on human rights. Isn't it time Australia and other western governments abandon this failed mechanism, which has become an end in itself - a dialogue for dialogue's sake? A WikiLeaks story in the Herald last week might answer some of these questions. It certainly reinforces the concerns we at Australia Tibet Council have raised with the government about the efficacy of this dialogue process. According to the leaked cables quoted in the report, Australian embassy staff in Beijing confided to their American counterparts in 2007 that Chinese officials used two tactics at these meetings - by laughing off with a "you-don't-understand-China" statement and trying "to run down the clock with long monologues". When the Tibet issue was put forward, the Chinese were only willing to discuss it as a "minority right" and not as a "human rights" problem. This may help to interpret Gillard's use of the language during her discussions with Wen. The story also mentions that China vetoed the participation of "Australian-Tibetan Association" in the 2009 dialogue. Here the journalist is referring to Australia Tibet Council. ATC's request to participate in the meetings around the dialogue process in Canberra in February 2009 was blocked by China. This was in spite of Australia's support for ATC's participation and our involvement during two earlier rounds of the dialogue. The 2010 dialogue took place in Beijing, and the Chinese government did not allow any representation from Australian NGOs. The meeting was twice postponed and took place a few days before Christmas when people in the government and media were focussed elsewhere. Australia was the first country to enter into a human rights dialogue with China in 1991. 20 years on, it has achieved very little. The government has almost exclusively relied on two days of meetings a year to improve human rights in China and Tibet, as was again suggested by Gillard in Beijing. And China has succeeded in evading the real issue by giving standard responses, killing time and questioning Australia's own record in this field. The US, the UK, the EU, Canada, Norway and Switzerland now have similar bilateral dialogues with China. Over the years, ATC and other Tibet and human rights groups have sent detailed submissions ahead of the dialogue meetings and offered a series of recommendations to governments. The meetings have always been held behind closed doors, have no real benchmarks or defined objectives. As China increasingly flexes its economic muscle in its dealings with other countries, it has adopted a more aggressive attitude towards this exercise of dialogue. WikiLeaks cables released earlier this year revealed the Chinese now tell western diplomats that they won't sit still for lectures on human rights anymore. The US concluded the latest round of its human right dialogue with China last week. An editorial in the Chinese government-run English newspaper Global Times stated categorically, "As China is a sovereign nation, there is zero possibility of it allowing the US to dictate its political development". There is very little cause for optimism from the bilateral human rights dialogue process. It may well be time for the western governments, including Australia, to abandon the process all together and collectively create a new mechanism for their efforts to improve human rights in China and Tibet.

My Second (And First) Trip To Canberra

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 20 October 2010

My name is Tsering Kyinzom Dhongdue. As the new Research and Government Relations Manager for the Australia Tibet Council, I look forward to keeping Tibet supporters informed about ATC's work in the Australian Parliament. Monday was my very first day at work and I was in at the deep end with a trip to Canberra. I can't complain as it was a warm afternoon while riding to our national capital and I had Paul, our Executive Officer, and Simon, my predecessor, for company. The trip down gave us an opportunity to discuss our meeting and plans. Plus, there were a few members of the local Tibetan community waiting to welcome us over dinner. Most importantly, I was going there to meet our parliamentarians and familiarise myself with ATC's activities around political lobbying. It was particularly significant as we were meeting our key supporters in the parliament for the first time since the new minority government was elected. Read more

Federal Election Spotlight: MELBOURNE

Published in Blog
Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Across the country ATC members in key electorates have been contacting their candidates to seek commitments on Tibet. The seat of Melbourne is one of the closest watched races in the country, being the only lower-house contest where, in 2007, the Greens out-polled the Liberal Party to finish second to Labor. This week a small delegation including local Tibetan-Australian Temay Rigzin and Thupten Dhondup, President of the Tibetan Community of Victoria, approached the ALP's Cath Bowtell and the Greens' Adam Bandt to see what actions they'd be willing to take for Tibet if elected. Read more

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