BEIJING (Reuters) - Late U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, who freed the slaves, would have approved of China’s policy to end serfdom in Tibet, a senior Chinese official said on Thursday.
China considers devoutly Buddhist Tibet an inherent part of its territory and routinely rejects accusations from exiles and rights groups of repression and human rights abuses.
Chinese forces entered Tibet in 1950 in what the government terms a peaceful liberation, and says its rule has brought prosperity and freedom to what was a backward and feudal society, including freeing a million people from serfdom, an event marked in Tibet as Serfs’ Emancipation Day.
Speaking on the sidelines of China’s 19th Communist Party Congress, Supervision Minister Yang Xiaodu, who helps fight corruption, said the United States and Tibet had much in common with their human rights experiences.
Yang recounted a tale of meeting a person he described as a former assistant U.S. secretary of state during a visit to the United States.
“I said, ‘In Chinese people’s minds, Lincoln is a hero, as he freed the slaves, and on this issue Chinese and American people’s recognition is the same, it’s a human rights issue’,” Yang said.
“In Tibet we freed the serfs, and how are American friends not able to understand this? This is also a human rights issue. If you look at it from Lincoln’s point of view, he would have approved of China overturning the serfdom system in Tibet.”
Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation freeing slaves in the United States in 1863.
China keeps a tight grip on Tibet due to periodic anti-Chinese unrest, and all foreigners require permission to visit, including foreign reporters.
Penpa Tashi, Tibet’s propaganda chief, told reporters at a separate event that it would like to have more foreign visitors.
“But Tibet is a high altitude area,” he said. “Our receiving capability is still being improved.”
Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Additional reporting by Chen Aizhu; Editing by Nick Macfie