[The Sydney Morning Herald]
Australia’s top diplomat in China has been unable to win Beijing’s permission to visit Tibet after almost a year of trying.
Foreign Minister Bob Carr announced in March 2012 that Ambassador Frances Adamson would seek to travel to Tibet to talk to locals and look into why a growing number of Tibetan pro-independence protesters were setting themselves on fire.
“Unfortunately I’m not able to share encouraging news,” Senator Carr told a Senate estimates hearing in Canberra on Thursday.
Ms Adamson had made several requests but so far to no avail.
“I regret that I can’t report progress,” he said.
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Secretary Peter Varghese said Australia believed there have been at least 98 self-immolations in the past two years.
“We have consistently conveyed to the Chinese authorities our concern about the situation,” he said.
Senator Carr said Australian plans to boost diplomatic ties with China was effectively on hold until after its leadership transition is finalised in March.
He revealed in October that top Australian officials had visited China to push for more regular formal meetings between Canberra and Beijing.
Such an arrangement would be similar to those Australia already has in place with countries like the US, but Beijing is yet to respond to the proposal.
The new arrangements could include annual meetings between the Australian prime minister and Chinese president, as well as separate meetings between foreign and economic ministers.