Thursday 07 Oct 2021 | 07:53 | SYDNEY
Thursday 07 Oct 2021 | 07:53 | SYDNEY

Silence on Tibet


Malcolm Cook

6 October 2009 10:44

In 2007, Opposition Leader Kevin Rudd, at the last moment, met the Dalai Lama during the election campaign. Then, in his principled Beijing University speech on his first visit to China as prime minister, he argued that:

Some have called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics because of recent problems in Tibet. As I said in London on Sunday, I do not agree. I believe the Olympics are important for China’s continuing engagement with the world. Australia like most other countries recognises China’s sovereignty over Tibet. But we also believe it is necessary to recognise there are significant human rights problem in Tibet. The current situation in Tibet is of concern to Australians. We recognise the need for all parties to avoid violence and find a solution through dialogue. As a long-standing friend of China I intend to have a straightforward discussion with China’s leaders on this.

Since then, discussion of concerns over Tibet and the 'offering of unflinching advice' by Canberra to Beijing over the human rights situation in Tibet is hard to find, as is evidence that the significant human rights problems of Tibet are improving. Last year, the Prime Minister and long-standing friend of China was (conveniently) overseas when the Dalai Lama visited Australia, though he did note at the time that 'I will see no course to deviate from the practice adopted in the past, which is to meet with him'.

Then, earlier this year, the Department of Foreign Affairs acquiesced to Chinese pressure to exclude, for the first time, Tibet human rights groups from the reception for the delayed annual Australia-China Human Rights Dialogue. And last week, a full two months before the Dalai Lama visits Australia again, the Prime Minister, through a spokesperson, announced a deviation from past practice and ruled out meeting him. 

Actions do speak louder than words, especially when the former contradicts the latter.