BEIJING—U.S. President Barack Obama began wrapping up a three-day state visit to China on Wednesday with a call on Beijing to start talks with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, whom the ruling Communist Party has shunned as a separatist.
While affirming that the United States considers the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) to be a part of the People's Republic of China, Obama called on Beijing to re-initiate stalled talks with envoys of the Dalai Lama, whom China has ruled out of Tibet's future.
"The United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides may have," ran the text of a joint communique issued by Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Hu Jintao.
Hu called on the United States not to allow what he called movements aimed at "separating China" to be active on its soil.
The Dalai Lama, now visiting Italy to win support for his "Middle Way" policy of insisting on greater autonomy and better treatment for Tibetans under Chinese rule, welcomed Obama's comments.
"The real problem is the [Chinese] policy toward minorities, which is unjust and unilateral, involving failure to show respect or consideration for those minorities' cultural heritage or for their life style," he was quoted by the Italian newspaper La Republica as saying.
"The trouble is that there is an authoritarian regime in China," he added, saying that the India-based Tibetan government-in-exile is currently studying various models of autonomy to raise with Chinese officials.
Hu told reporters after his meeting with Obama that he hoped Washington would understand and support Beijing's stance and concerns.
He called on the Obama administration to "properly manage the Taiwan issue, and disallow any Tibetan independence supporters or 'East Turkistan forces' to commit to any moves on the American soil that would separate China," said Hu, referring to Muslim ethnic Uyghur groups who oppose Chinese rule in the Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region.
Pressure on human rights
The joint communique issued by the two leaders emphasized increased exchange and cooperation in education, business, and technology.
But apart from a brief reference to freedom of information online, pressure on Beijing's human rights issues has been relatively low down the list of priorities on Obama's visit, analysts said.
"The U.S. has made a mistake of historical proportions," said U.S.-based scholar Zhu Xueyuan, referring to the global financial meltdown.
"It has mired itself in huge international debt, and therefore has very little negotiating power."
"It is in a dire situation which it can not get itself out of easily. It is not likely to start effective or substantive discussions with China on human rights," Zhu said.
Sichuan-based online commentator Ran Yunfei said the Obama administration is seen as taking less of a hard line on democracy, religious freedom, and human rights than his predecessors.
"They are definitely not as tough as before," Ran said. "I think it's good that Obama is now emphasising dialogue and cooperation."
"But I want to be clear, at a time when most Chinese people's human rights are being violated, does the money ... that you take away from your cooperation with China bear the blood of China's people?"
"This is an issue which Obama cannot neglect, and I don't think he has dealt with it very well so far," Ran added.
Original reporting in Mandarin by Shen Hua and Yan Xiu, and in Cantonese by Pan Jiaqing. Mandarin service director: Jennifer Chou. Cantonese service director: Shiny Li. Translated and written for the Web in English by Luisetta Mudie. Edited by Sarah Jackson-Han.