Right now, the main story seems to be summed up by The Times‘s homepage headline: “US and China Pledge More Cooperation.” Where this leaves Tibet, of course, remains to be seen.
Confused? Perhaps these two paragraphs from the TimesOnline’s reports best sum up the game that Obama is playing:
[Obama] stressed his “bedrock” belief that human rights were universal and should be available to all and to “all ethnic and religious minorities.” Mr Obama’s reference could only be to Tibetans who chafe under Beijing rule as well as to members of the Muslim Uighur minority in the northwest who rose up against Chinese rule in July, killing dozens of Han Chinese in the worst ethnic violence in decades.
Mr Obama voiced public recognition of Tibet as a part of China – a remark that Beijing values. President Hu stood beside him impassive when he referred to the exiled Dalai Lama whom Beijing blames for unrest in Tibet and has branded a “jackal in monk’s robes.” Washington, Mr Obama said, supported the early resumption of talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama “to resolve any concerns or differences the two sides may have.”
The game is, of course, diplomacy, or at least that’s what one hopes – that Obama is delivering his mixed messages knowing full well that you can’t catch flies with vinegar.
Meanwhile, IndyBay.org reports:
As US President Barack Obama used the Shanghai leg of his China visit to call for an end to online censorship, it emerged that a Chinese court has sentenced Tibetan writer and photographer Kunga Tseyang to five years in prison on various charges including posting articles on the Internet. Two days before, literary website editor Kunchok Tsephel has meanwhile been sentenced to 15 years in prison on a charge of “divulging state secrets.” […]
“Was this the Chinese government’s pre-emptive response to the US president’s very clear defence of the free flow of information,” Reporters Without Borders asked. “Either way, we hope the central government will overturn such heavy prison sentences, which two Tibetan writers have been given just for expressing their views. We deplore the increased repression since the major protests in Tibet in March 2008.”
“Some Chinese bloggers whom the White House had tried to invite [to Obama’s so-called ‘Town Hall Meeting’ at the Museum of Science and Technology in Shanghai] were barred from attending. Even then, the Chinese government took no chances, declining to broadcast the event live to a national audience — or even mention it on the main evening newscast of state-run China Central Television.”
“One student who participated in the meeting said she was trained for four days by the Chinese government, and told not to ask questions about Tibet or human rights and to be respectful of President Obama and consider the implications any question would have on U.S.-China relations. She asked not to be identified for fear of being punished by her university.”
[11/18/2009 update: it should be no surprise that “Tibetan exiles [are] saddened by Obama’s views on Tibet.”]