McCain canes China on Tibet self-immolations

A senior US Senator and a former presidential nominee warned China of an impending Arab Spring highlighting the fiery wave of self-immolations in Tibet.

Senator John McCain was speaking along with China's Vice Foreign Minister Zhang Zhijun on a panel at a high-level three-day security conference in Munich Saturday when he made the references.

"It is a matter of concern when Tibetans are burning themselves to death because of the continued repression of the Tibetan people in your country," McCain said.

"I have said on many occasion and I will say again the Arab Spring is coming to China as well."

Speaking before an audience of top defence and diplomacy officials from around the world McCain told Zhang: “There is not a way that you will be able to stifle it (peaceful protests) completely.”

Zhang countered by claiming that Beijing has made “huge achievements” in Tibet and called suggestions of Arab Spring in China a “fantasy”.

"In China, a country that was subjected to foreign invasion and occupation for 109 years, the Chinese people are resentful of any kind of lecturing on how China should manage its own affairs," Zhang said.

His comments were quickly countered by McCain who noted that China would see less interference if it allowed free and fair elections.

McCain, a veteran of the Vietnam war, went on to link the protests in Tibet to demands for political independence.

"Most of all, people want to choose their own leaders," said McCain. "When you have free and fair elections in China, I think you will have much less interference in your internal affairs."

In the past 11 months, 19 Tibetans have set their bodies on fire demanding the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama from exile and protesting China’s occupation of Tibet.

In recent weeks, widespread protests in eastern Tibet has reportedly claimed the lives of at least a dozen Tibetans due to indiscriminate police firings on unarmed Tibetans.

US Special Coordinator for Tibet, Under Secretary Maria Otero in a release January 24 had said that the US was “gravely concerned by reports of violence and continuing heightened tensions” in Tibet.

"The US Government repeatedly has urged the Chinese government to address the counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and that threaten the distinct religious, cultural and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people," Otero had said.