Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has begun a state visit to China. The four day trip is aimed at boosting bilateral trade and investment. However the first day was largely overshadowed by disagreements over Tibet. Rudd spoke about “significant human rights problems" in China's Tibetan areas and urged the Chinese government to solve them through talks.
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd
Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd has arrived in Beijing after controversially stating in Washington last week that human rights abuses are occurring in Tibet under Chinese occupation. "I think it would be appropriate for the Chinese government to engage the Dalai Llama and his representatives."
During his Chinese studies at the Australian National University, Kevin Rudd wrote an honours thesis on the Chinese dissident movement in the late 1970s.
The Mandarin speaking Prime Minister was the first western leader to address Chinese university students today in their native tongue and this afternoon he was given the opportunity to further express his views on the subject.
Disagreements over Tibet
He said that many in Australia are concerned about human rights abuses in the western province of the People's Republic. The Chinese governor of Tibet has reiterated that the people of the province were enjoying wonderful human rights and democracy. Another Communist party official said that "this particular politician should join us in condemning the violent crimes in Lhasa - the crimes that have violated human rights". However Mr Rudd is not bowing to Chinese pressure: "I made those comments in Washington, I stand by them, and I think that this relationship is broad enough to tolerate disagreement."
No to Olympics Boycott
Australia's position as a major exporter of raw materials to China may give it some leverage in the issue of a dialogue with the People’s Republic on human rights in China in the lead up to the Beijing Olympics. Kevin Rudd has stated that he is against a boycott of the Beijing Olympics. He has further stated however that the official Chinese Olympic torch guards, who recently were involved in protest scuffles in London and Paris, will not be allowed into Australia. Mr Rudd will meet with the Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao and take part in an economic forum on the island of Hainan this weekend, where he will meet President Hu Jintao.