Although I’d have to do some extensive rummaging around to confirm, I dare say that few world leaders have had the gumption to criticise China’s human rights record on Chinese soil as straightforwardly as Kevin Rudd did at Beijing University yesterday. An English transcript of the full speech (which was of course delivered in Mandarin) is here, provided by The Australian, and the key passage from the speech that has no doubt got a few chins wagging in the Chinese bureaucracy is as follows:
Some have called for a boycott of the Beijing Olympics because of recent problems in Tibet. As I said in London on Sunday, I do not agree.
I believe the Olympics are important for China’s continuing engagement with the world. Australia like most other countries recognises China’s sovereignty over Tibet.
But we also believe it is necessary to recognise there are significant human rights problems in Tibet. The current situation in Tibet is of concern to Australians.
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 my estimation, Rudd has played his hand forthrightly here because he feels that the political measure of the Chinese Government is within his grasp. His diplomatic experiences, and of course his strong personal relationships with people in numerous prominent positions in China are proving emboldening. If the world was casting a mold for a leader who is able to speak frankly and openly with the Chinese Government and bridge the gap between tomorrow’s superpower and the West, I don’t really think there is very much doubt that Rudd’s frame would fit it. It will be very interesting to see if the discussions that the Prime Minister now has with Chinese President Hu Jintao are impacted at all by the situation in Tibet and Rudd’s comments on the situation there. One hopes that the the two governments take this opportunity to build closer and less obfuscated ties, and that the Chinese President absorbs Lu Kewen’s comments in the spirit they were given; a tap on the shoulder from someone who wants to help.
ELSEWHERE: Of course, there’s no mention of Rudd’s concerns about Tibet in this blatantly information-washed article covering the speech from Xinhua. Truly shameful.