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Voice of Freedom :A group of 12 Nobel Peace Laureates - including Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, Lech Walesa, Leymah Gbowee and Shirin Ebadi - yesterday released an open letter to Chinese President Hu Jintao. The letter is a response to the recent spate of self-immolations within the Tibetan community and urges Jintao to resolve the ongoing conflict.
In the past year alone, over 30 Tibetans, including 5 women, have lost their lives to self-immolation, part of peaceful protest against Chinese rule of Tibet. The most recent incident occurred during President Jintao's official visit to India, home to thousands of Tibetans living in exile including His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
In the release, the Nobel Peace Laureates call on the Chinese leader to open "meaningful dialogue" with his Holiness the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders, and "respect the dignity of the Tibetan people" by finding a nonviolent solution to the conflict. China has ruled Tibet for over six decades and placed strict sanctions on the practice of religion and culture in Tibet.
As a result of the recent self-burnings and rising tensions, the Chinese government has increased militarization in Tibet and curtailed the already limited religious freedom of Buddhist monks.
President Hu Jintao,
The People's Republic of China
Dear Mr. President:
The people of Tibet wish to be heard. They have long sought meaningful autonomy, and chosen negotiation and friendly help as their means of attaining it. They now turn to protest. The international community is concerned by the drastic expressions of resentment by the people of Tibet through self-immolation. The Chinese government should hear their voices, understand their grievances and find a nonviolent solution.
That solution is offered by our friend and brother His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has never sought separatism, and has always chosen a peaceful path. We strongly urge the Chinese government to seize the opportunity he provides for a meaningful dialogue. Once formed, this channel should remain open, active and productive. It should address issues that are at the heart of the current tension, respecting the dignity of the Tibetan people and the integrity of China.
Specifically, we are respectfully requesting that the Chinese government release all those who have been arbitrarily detained; cease the intimidation, harassment and detention of peaceful protestors; allow unrestricted access for journalists, foreign diplomats, and international organizations to Tibet; and respect religious freedom.
It is especially important to understand that the international community will be reassured if your government would allow members of the press and United Nations Human Rights investigators full access within Tibet. Without that access, progress is unlikely and an opportunity may be lost.
Rigoberta Menchu Tum
Jose Ramos Horta
Adolfo Perez Esquivel
Mairead Corrigan Maguire