Pro-Tibet activists urge Merkel to raise human rights issues
International activist groups urged German Chancellor Angela Merkel Thursday to raise the issue of Tibet during her visit to China, dpa reported. "At this critical juncture in relations between Europe and China, Chancellor Merkel must press Chinese President Hu Jintao for tangible results from the dialogue between the Dalai Lama's representatives and Chinese officials," said Kate Saunders of the London-based International Campaign for Tibet. Merkel arrived in Beijing Thursday to participate in the Asia Europe Meeting (ASEM) Summit on Friday and Saturday. This largest-ever ASEM gathering took place at a time of severe repression against peaceful dissent in Tibet, Saunders said. The German chancellor and the other heads of state and government should press during their talks in Beijing for inclusion of a reference to the situation in Tibet and the necessity to respect the rights of Tibetans in the final ASEM statement and declaration, she said. A new round of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, are planned for this year. Little information is available about the current situation in Tibet, which had been shaken by anti-Chinese protests in March and April, as the region as well was surrounding areas populated by ethnic Tibetans were sealed off by Chinese authorities. Putting any discussion of Tibet aside at ASEM because of Chinese sensitivities would run counter to the ASEM agenda, which is to promote understanding and enhance cooperation through dialogue, Saunders said. Merkel, who is scheduled to meet Prime Minister Wen Jiabao on Thursday and Jintao on Friday, was set to raise human rights issues, her spokesman said prior to her departure.