“Wen pledges to protect Tibetans’ rights after Sichuan unrest”

I don’t think the positive headline is really deserved, based on the actual content of the article:

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao said on Friday “greater efforts” would be made by the Chinese government to protect Tibetans’ cultural traditions and religious freedom, amid ongoing unrest in north-western China that has seen at least 16 self-immolation protests in recent months.

Mr. Wen’s comments struck a markedly different tone from strong warnings issued by Communist Party officials in Tibet only a day earlier, describing the situation in the region as “grave” and calling for “a war against secessionist sabotage”. Chen Quango, the Communist Party chief in Tibet, had said in a speech on Thursday that an on-going “fight against the Dalai Lama clique” was “long-term, complicated and sometimes even acute”.

Mr. Wen’s comments were made during a meeting here on Friday with the 11th Panchen Lama, Gyancain Norbu, in Zhongnanhai, the central leadership compound.

In Friday’s meeting, Mr. Wen called on the Panchen Lama “to play an even greater and more positive role in safeguarding the national unification and unity of all ethnic groups” and to “lead the Buddhists lamas and followers in loving the country, abiding by laws and abiding by Buddhism commandments”, the official Xinhua news agency reported.

He also pledged that “in the future the regional ethnic autonomy will continue” while the government would make “greater efforts… to improve the lives of Tibetan compatriots, protect the environment and the region’s cultural traditions, as well as the religious freedom of the Tibetan people.”

Pledging to protect Tibetans’ rights… while meeting the Chinese Panchen Lama? Does this pledge apply to the real Panchen Lama, wherever he may be? Can you seriously make a statement about religious freedom while you’re talking to a man who embodies China’s restrictions on religion? Can you talk about protecting Tibetan cultural traditions while standing next to the pawn Beijing intends to use to disrupt the Dalai Lama lineage?

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Filed under ethnic conflict, Tibet

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