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Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Kevin Rudd and Tibet

Anyone who had assumed that Kevin Rudd was a cautious technocratic politician despite his article proclaiming his admiration for Dietrich Bonhoeffer might now be given some pause for thought by the following news story on the ABC website.

Senior Chinese Government officials have publicly attacked Prime Minister Kevin Rudd over his comments on Tibet.

In Washington, Mr Rudd said it was clear that human rights abuses were being committed in Tibet, and today he repeated those claims during a speech at a university in Beijing. Mr Rudd says he will not be backing away from his plan to raise his concerns with the Chinese leadership.

"It's important, as I said in my speech earlier today, to have a relationship that is capable of handling a disagreement and putting views in a straight-forward fashion," he said.

"That's what I said I'd be doing in my remarks earlier today, and that's what I will be doing. I stand by the comments I made earlier on this matter."

He has also supported Australians' right to turn their back on the Olympic flame.

"You know one thing about Australia [is], it's a robust democracy. We live in a free country - people can express their point of view in any manner that they choose," he said.

In a speech earlier today to Beijing University students, Mr Rudd said he did not support a boycott of the Olympics, but he risked increasing Beijing's ire by talking about other human rights issues and controversies.

"There are still many problems in China. Problems of poverty, problems of uneven development, problems of pollution. Problems of broader human rights," he said.

"It is important to recognise that China's change is having a great impact, not just on China, but also the world."

Mr Rudd described China's social transformation as "unprecedented in human history", but warned his audience that its rise was causing anxiety overseas.

There is something appropriate in the fact that this speech was given on 9 April, the date on which Dietrich Bonhoeffer is remembered in the Anglican calendar of saints and martyrs.

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