Robinson's visit is of great importance, says Beijing

 

The Chinese government said yesterday it attached "great importance" to the visit next week of the UN Human Rights Commissioner, Mrs Mary Robinson.

Mrs Robinson arrives on Sunday for a 10-day visit at the invitation of Beijing to discuss human rights issues with the Chinese authorities. While details of her exact itinerary have been withheld, The Irish Times has learned that she has been granted her request to visit Tibet.

Human rights in Tibet have been a public concern of Mrs Robinson since long before she took up the UN post a year ago. Asked if her visit would bring about a breakthrough in contacts between Beijing and the Dalai Lama, a Foreign Ministry spokesman told journalists yesterday that official policy had not changed and that the central government had its own channels to contact and negotiate with the exiled religious leader.

The Chinese government was willing to hold talks as long as the Dalai Lama gave up "his stand on Tibet's independence and stops activities aimed at splitting the motherland and declares publicly that Tibet is an inseparable part of China," the spokesman said.

The Dalai Lama has said several times recently that he is willing to settle for autonomy for Tibet within China's borders.

Mrs Robinson will have talks with officials, non-governmental groups and academics during her stay from September 6th to 15th. She will also visit "other parts of China," the spokesman said, adding: "We are willing to hold dialogue on the issue of human rights on the basis of equality and mutual respect."

Last week the UN Human Rights Commission press officer, Mr Jose Diaz, said in Geneva that Mrs Robinson hoped to meet the Foreign Minister, Mr Tang Jiaxuan, in Beijing and look into conditions of detention during her visit.

High on her agenda would be a Chinese promise to sign the main UN treaty guaranteeing civil and political freedoms.

Mr Diaz also said that Chinese authorities had responded positively to Mrs Robinson's request to visit Tibet, where Beijing has been accused by human rights bodies of suppressing Tibetan culture.

The Chinese invitation to Mrs Robinson was extended in January and was instrumental in the decision of EU states to switch from confrontation to dialogue with China on the issue of human rights. Beijing has also promised to sign the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

Benjamin Kang Lim of Reuters reports: A pro-democracy campaigner, Mr Wang Youcai (32), was released from detention on Sunday, a Hong Kong-based human rights group has said. But he is still under house arrest.

Mr Wang had tried to register an opposition political party on June 25th, the first day of President Clinton's visit to China, said the Information Centre of Human Rights and Democratic Movement in China.

He was one of 13 dissidents rounded up in Hangzhou in July for trying to register the Chinese Democratic Party.

The dissidents then declared that challenging Communist Party supremacy was too risky. All have been released.