The U.S. is investigating why a Tibetan activist was prevented from attending a private dinner on women’s issues at the U.S. Embassy in Beijing during Secretary of State John Kerry’s visit.
“We are concerned that Tsering Woeser was placed under house arrest and prevented from attending” the dinner, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said at a briefing in Washington. “We’re looking into the matter to determine more details about what happened here and of course the reasons.”
Woeser runs the website “Invisible Tibet” and has emerged as a voice documenting persecution of ethnic Tibetans in China. Another unidentified invitee may also have been prevented from attending the dinner, Psaki said.
The incident highlights one of the areas of tensions between the two nations that Kerry and President Xi Jinping yesterday sought to play down in annual bilateral talks aimed at overcoming a strain in ties over cyber and security issues. China’s human rights record is among the list of diplomatic and trade disputes that are undermining discussions this year.
During his meetings, Kerry raised specific cases of human rights violations in a direct, candid and constructive way as well as concern that there is a trend in China for more arrests and harassment of individuals who express political views, an Obama administration official told reporters at the end of the first day of talks.
Kerry also emphasized the U.S. view that it is important that China respect and protect the religious, cultural and linguistic rights and characteristics of ethnic minorities, particularly in Tibet and Xinjiang, said the official, who asked not be named in accordance with policy.
Woeser, who lives in Beijing, said in a July 8 post on her Facebook page that she and her husband had been told by security staff they would be prevented from leaving their home for two days. Woeser was denied a passport by the Chinese government to travel to Washington to collect a State Department International Women of Courage Award last year.
Kerry, in Beijing with U.S. Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and U.S. business leaders, is scheduled to leave this evening after talks wrap up.