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Religious Freedom in Tibet Has a Long Way To Go, Carter Says

June 30, 1987

BEIJING (AP) _ Former President Jimmy Carter said Tuesday that religious freedom in Tibet has improved, but still ″has a long way to go.″

Following a visit by Carter to Tibet, China’s official press quoted Carter as saying freedom of religion was flourishing in the northern autonomous region.

Xinhua News Agency reported Carter’s remarks in an article assailing two amendments recently passed by the U.S. House of Representatives which criticized China’s human rights record. One amendment denounced China’s rule of Tibet and said Tibetans have been persecuted for their religious activities.

Some minority Tibetans have long resented China’s majority Han Chinese who have controlled the government since 1951. During the 1966-76 Cultural Revolution, Han leftists persecuted Tibetans who tried to maintain their language, customs and religion of Lamaism.

″Although I was in Tibet only a short while, we observed people at worship,″ Carter told a news conference. ″I think it has a long way to go before the pre-Cultural Revolution stage might be restored.″

He said that if taken in the context of contrasting the situation during the Cultural Revolution, what he heard and what he observed during his visit, ″I think what was quoted in the (Xinhua) article was accurate.″

Carter is making a private visit to China as chairman of the Global 2000 foundation, a private group that promotes world peace through self-sufficiency in food production and improved health standards.

Carter arranged to leave Tuesday for his first visit to Moscow.

He said Chinese leaders he met said that Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev’s commitment to easing world-wide tension is genuine.

In Beijing, he signed two contracts with the Chinese government - one to provide special education for disabled children and another to provide artificial limbs to amputees.

The former president said the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s top religious leader, would visit him in Georgia in September, adding, ″My hope is ultimately, there might be through negotiation, a mutual accomodation on arrangement made by which the Dalai Lama can return to his ministry in Lhasa.″

The Dalai Lama fled to exile in India in 1959 following an unsuccessful uprising. His followers have since waged an active campaign for Tibetan independence. The Beijing government allows him to visit, but not live, in Tibet.

Carter said he had ″intense and pleasant″ discussions with China’s paramount leader Deng Xiaoping on many issues, including China’s future, the Persian Gulf, the Middle East, Korea and the Indian-Chinese border. He refused to reveal the details, saying the talks were private.

Carter expressed confidence that China would continue its various reforms.

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