Albright's Tibet plea falls on deaf ears in China

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MADELEINE Albright, the US Secretary of State, yesterday said differences over human rights and political freedoms "remain obstacles to a fully comprehensive partnership" between America and China, writes Teresa Poole.

Winding up a two-day visit to Peking during which she met senior Chinese leaders, Mrs Albright said: "I raised our concerns quite directly about religious freedom, Tibet, the right to free and peaceful expression of political views, and the still large numbers of Chinese prisoners of conscience."

She left behind a list of political prisoners and also urged Peking to re-open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet.

Mrs Albright's trip to China was one of several high-level visits ahead of President Bill Clinton's scheduled arrival at the end of June, the first state visit by a US president since the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. Her entourage included the new US Special Co-ordinator on Tibet, Greg Craig, an appointment which has been criticised by Peking. "It is very important for there to be preservation of the cultural and the religious special character of Tibet," she told a news conference. But her plea for renewed dialogue with the Dalai Lama fell on deaf ears. A Foreign Ministry spokesman said the Tibetan leader had "no sincerity toward dialogue at all".