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8 February 2012

Former Republican presidential candidate and one of the most respected figures in the US, Senator John McCain expressed concern that the Chinese government’s continued repression is pushing Tibetans in Tibet to burn themselves to death.

Speaking with China’s Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun on a panel at a high-level Munich security conference on Saturday, Senator McCain told Zhang in front of an audience of ministers, diplomats and security officials: “It is a matter of concern when Tibetans are burning themselves to death because of the continued repression of the Tibetan people in your country.”

“There is not a way that you will be able to stifle it (peaceful protests) completely,” he added.

“I have said on many occasions and I will say again the Arab Spring is coming to China as well,” Mr McCain said.

He reiterated United States’ firm support to the Tibetan people’s right to fundamental human rights.”There are certain universal values that we all cherish, and ambitions to achieve those inalienable rights are something the United States is probably must proud of in its entire history.”   

Mr McCain, who later shook hands with Zhang, told him: “I hope you didn’t interpret my remarks as anything other than the advocacy that I and others hold for every nation in the world, including yours.”

Since 2009, 20 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in Tibet calling for freedom and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to his homeland.

Recently a resolution on Tibet was introduced in the U.S. Senate (S. Res. 365) by Senator Dianne Feinstein and co-sponsored seven other Senators, of which Dr Lobsang Sangay met with five and requested each one of them to co-sponsor the resolution to which they all agreed.

The Senate resolution focuses on self-immolations in Tibet and the transfer of political power to the democratic elected political head of the Tibetan people. Senators Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.), Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), John McCain (R-Ariz.), Jim Webb (D-Va.) and Mark Udall (D-Colo.) are the co-sponsors.

In November last year, Kalon Tripa Dr Lobsang Sangay visited the US and several European countries to appeal for the international community’s intervention to end the deteriorating situation in Tibet. Senators John McCain and Joseph Lieberman hosted Dr. Sangay and introduced him to other colleagues in the U.S. Senate. Kalon Tripa also met several members of the U.S. House of Representatives as well.

Senator McCain and his colleagues extended their strong support to His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Kalon Tripa. Senator McCain later tweeted on the meeting and said “Met today Lobsang Sangay, PM of Tibetan gov’t – an outstanding leader of a country that deserves its freedom”.

Dr Lobsang Sangay first met Senator McCain in July 2011 at the Kalachkara teachings in Washington. He again met the Senator in August 2011 during the Senator’s visit to Ladakh in India in the same month. The Senator hosted a dinner for the Kalon Tripa in New Delhi.