Expressing deep concern over the increasing number of self-immolations by Tibetans, the US today asked China to initiate unconditional talks with the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.
"We call on the Chinese government to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions," Special US Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Maria Otero said in a statement.
Otero said the United States is deeply concerned and saddened by the continuing violence in Tibetan areas of China and the increasing frequency of self-immolations by Tibetans.
"Chinese authorities have responded to these tragic incidents with measures that tighten already strict controls on freedoms of religion, expression, assembly and association of Tibetans. Official rhetoric that denigrates the Tibetan language, the Dalai Lama, and those who have self-immolated has further exacerbated tensions," she said.
Noting that senior US officials have directly raised the issue of Tibetan self-immolations with their Chinese government counterparts, Otero said the US Government has consistently urged the Chinese government to address policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions.
"These policies include increasingly severe government controls on Tibetan Buddhist religious practice and monastic institutions; education practices that undermine the preservation of Tibetan language; intensive surveillance, arbitrary detentions and disappearances of Tibetans, including youth and Tibetan intellectual and cultural leaders; escalating restrictions on news, media and communications; and the use of force against Tibetans seeking peacefully to exercise their universal human rights," she said.
"We call on the Chinese government to permit Tibetans to express their grievances freely, publicly, peacefully, and without fear of retribution. We hope that the tragic acts of self-immolation end. We call on China's leaders to allow journalists, diplomats and other observers unrestricted access to China's Tibetan areas," Otero said.
The strong American statement comes days after relatives of three Tibetans, who recently self-immolated in Tibet protesting against the Chinese oppression, met Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael Posner.
"He (Posner) expressed our deepest condolences and our grave concern for the spiraling violence and harsh crackdown in Tibetan areas as well as, you know, grief with regard to the self-immolations," State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland told reporters last Friday.