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Ambassador Fu Ying: Olympics Will Be the Start of a Beautiful Relationship between China and the World
2008/05/12

On 8th May, Ambassador Fu Ying was interviewed by Mr. Jon Snow of Channel 4 News. The interview ran as follows.

Snow: Can we start with Burma? China has very close relations with Burma. What pressure are you able to bring on the Burmese Junta to allow international aid in?

Fu Ying: Thank you very much for having me here. Burma, which we call Myanmar - the UN name, is our very close neighbour and we have a common long border. China has been among the first to offer aid and our aid arrived yesterday. All the neighbouring countries have been there. It's a tragic situation, for any government I think it's very demanding and challenging.

I think it's a time for solidarity, blaming or complaining is not going to help the people - people are suffering. As far asChina is concerned we'll certainly do everything we can to help. In China our hearts are with the people, students are leaving donations to the Myanmese embassy in Beijing.

Snow: Are you asking the Burmese government to let some of the other aid in, as clearly there's plenty waiting?

Fu Ying: China does not have the culture of telling other governments what to do, but during this time of crisis we'll do everything the way we can.

Snow: Ambassador, let's then look at the real reason that we wanted to talk to you tonight and you very kindly offered to come.

The torch - it's been a very difficult problem. The Chinese Olympics were supposed to open up to the outside world and yet the consequences seem to have seen a closing.

It's very difficult now for journalists to get toTibet, it's virtually closed and to some other areas. It's not been a happy situation the last three months.

Fu Ying: Today, it's a very important day for the Olympics of Beijing. As you know the torch reached Mount Qomolangma - in China we call it by its Tibetan name. I watched the torch this morning, up to two o'clock in the morning, I was very excited. You mentioned the Tibetans - of the five mountaineers, three are Tibetans and there are two Tibetan women, isn't it exciting? And I heard their voices for peace and the Olympics.

Snow: That in a sense is one side of the story. The other side is that if we want to get into Tibet, if we wanted to look at the Tibetan side of the mountain, at the moment, it's very, very difficult for Western journalists to get in. So in that sense it looks as if the response to the Olympics has been to shut down, not to open up.

Fu Ying: When the Olympics come, I'm sure lots of people will go to Tibet. I've seen the list lots of people are applying to go to Tibet. At this moment in Lhasa, the domestic tourism has already started; lots of people are already there.

But forLhasa it takes time for them to have all those burned down houses rebuilt and to make sure the supply comes in. The violent rioting has caused so much damage to people's lives and houses and now it's hitting the economy. But I think the local government is doing everything it can to recover as soon as possible.

Snow: There is a process going on now in which you've resumed talks with the representatives of the Dalai Lama.

But it's difficult after somebody who's regarded by some of the Tibetans as a sort of god, if they have to hear language like "he's a jackal", "he's an evil spirit in the heart of the beast". This is strong stuff.

Fu Ying: I think people were angry at that moment, when they saw so many police got wounded and so many people died. But it's certainly not the language used by the central government. Nevertheless the problem we have with the Dalai Lama is he wears so many hats.

He facesChina with this political angle, he talks about politics so he's a political figure. And he's regarded here by many people as a religious leader, and he's long been, as you mentioned, god and king in one.

And just like you, you don't like mixing up or blurring of church and state. We don't feel comfortable having religion and politics mixing up.

Snow: Do you feel comfortable with Gordon Brown meeting with the Dalai Lama as he's going to? Would you rather he didn't meet him?

Fu Ying: I heard that Britain is the only country where there will be a head of government meeting during his recent international tour. From my point of view it's very unfortunate. This is a difficult situation for us, is he coming as a religious leader or a political leader? It will only make things difficult.

Snow: Is there any sense in which China feels or recognises that people in Tibet may have legitimate grievances?

Fu Ying: We wouldn't have any difficulties discussing specific difficulties. Tibet is now sharing the benefit of the reform.

It's growing at a speed of over 12 per cent, higher than the national average. People used to die at the average age of 35 years inTibet. Now the lifespan has grown to 67 years. The illiteracy rate in Tibet used to be 95 per cent, it's coming down to five per cent. Schools are opening everywhere in Tibet.

Snow: But in many ways though ambassador, and although those are impressive figures, the real dispute with China is about human rights and democracy.

Do you think that somehow western concepts of freedom and democracy are simply different from Chinese concepts of freedom and democracy?

Fu Ying: Every country has its own history, its own culture and its own economic stage of development. China is definitely at a different stage of development compared with you - you have developed your industry for 200 years and China is just starting now. We're just at the primary stage of our industrialisation.

I agree that there is universal understanding of human rights.The fundamental human rights concern forChina is the interests of the majority of the people, 1.3 billion people.

Imagine, for the first time in Chinese history people are not hungry any more. I've been through that, I know how it feels when you can only think about the food on the table. But people who are born in the eighties like my daughter; they've never known what hunger is.

This is a great human rights achievement. We're not perfect; there are lots of challenges, lots of difficulties. But we're getting there I think.

Snow: Let me just ask you one final question about the torch when it came to London.

Do you regret having the men who looked like athletes, but where in fact police paramilitaries round the torch? Wasn't that a mistake? They were described as "thugs" by Lord Coe.

Fu Ying: No, I disagree. Firstly the torch going all over the world, to the five continents is China's way of saying hello to the world.

It's unfortunate that so many people are trying to use this opportunity to get atChina. But I think it's an educational process. China has learned a lot through this process, and I hope the world has learned too.

But about the attendants, I met Lord Coe after his torch run, he didn't say anything, he didn't complain. The attendants, they are volunteers. The attendants here are from among the 5,000 volunteers inChina, recruited from all over the country. Most of them are university students. By and large, I think they are selected to help the torch relay in accordance with the rules of the IOC. I don't think they did anything outside the rules.

They're very nice young boys, the boys who ran with me I think they were just 18 or 19, lovely and sunny, bright, very pleasant young people.

It's unfortunate that they're seen in this kind of light in this country. And these are single children inChina, their parents must feel very hurt by the way they were treated.

Snow: Ambassador, I'm grateful for you coming in. It's been, I think, very interesting to talk to you and it's the first time we've had a Chinese perspective on the matter.

Fu Ying: Thank you Jon, just let me add the Olympics are coming and I'm sure it's going to be the start of a beautiful relationship between China and the world - I'm optimistic.

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