Ahead of his first visit to China as prime minister of Australia, books on Kevin Rudd are selling like hot cakes in book stores everywhere. Speaking in Mandarin to students at Peking University yesterday, Rudd pointed out to “significant” human rights problems in Tibet, but reiterated his opposition to an Olympic boycott:
“Australia, like most other countries, recognises Chinese sovereignty over Tibet but we also believe it is necessary to recognise there are significant human rights problems in Tibet,” Rudd told Peking University students in Mandarin on Wednesday.
“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.”
In the meanwhile, as various protests continued across San Francisco (including this nude torch run), thousands turned out at United Nations Plaza to hear Archbishop Desmond Tutu and actor Richard Gere “rally support for freedom in Tibet and decry the People’s Republic of China’s rule there”. Nobel Peace Prize laureate Desmond Tutu who was in town to receive the Outspoken Award from the International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights Commission came out in support of international protests surrounding the Olympic torch and urged world leaders to boycott the games’ opening ceremony in Beijing:
“We want to say to China, ‘We thought that the Olympic Games would help you improve your human rights record,’ ” Tutu said. “We still hope … but what we are saying to the heads of state, to President George Bush, is, ‘For goodness sake, don’t go to the Beijing Games … for the sake of our children, for the beautiful people of Tibet. Don’t go!’ ”
Tutu told the crowd that South Africa stands as an example of a people who, with the help of worldwide demonstrations, boycotts and vigils, overcame their oppression.
“We have come to say this is a moral universe … that right and goodness and compassion and freedom are going to remain,” Tutu said to the cheering crowd.
Actor Richard Gere, in a separate interview with KCRA, said this controversy wouldn’t have blown up if China hadn’t insisted on closing Mount Everest and bringing the torch relay to to Tibet. In his speech, he referred to an “epic moment in the history of Tibet-China relations”:
He called China’s veneer of a harmonious society a fraud, and urged an open discussion between the two.
“There is no harmony, no genuine harmony, without truth,” Gere said. “Without freedom of religion, freedom of movement, freedom of culture.”
Related links from SFist
Images From Yesterday’s Tibet Rally and Peace March
Olympic Torch Updates Via Twitter
Marina Man Wearing “Free Tibet” Sign Commits Suicide
Obligatory Shot of Frank Chu At Torch Rally/Protest
Olympic Torch Updates: Bus Running Over People, Protests, Boycotting, and More