Australian diplomat in China in Tibet visit request

Pro-Tibet protesters in the USA (February 2012)
Image caption Tibetan protesters around the world are drawing attention to self-immolations

Australia's ambassador to China is seeking permission to visit Tibet following a number of self-immolations, said Foreign Minister Bob Carr.

Ambassador Frances Adamson will also request Beijing to allow an Australian parliamentary group to make the trip, Mr Carr told the Senate on Monday.

In the past year more than 25 Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest what they say is religious repression.

Mr Carr replaced Kevin Rudd, who quit as foreign minister last month.

He said the requests are being made as an attempt to investigate why protesters are setting themselves on fire.

"Any suggestion, however, of independence for Tibet conflicts with the position taken by every Australian government since December 1972 when Australia recognised China's sovereignty over Tibet with the establishment of diplomatic relations," he said.

China has not yet responded to an earlier request for Australia to access Tibetan areas of neighbouring provinces in China, Australian media reported.

Activists say the self-immolations, many of them by monks, were in protest at Beijing's rule. Most of the incidents have taken place in the Tibetan region of Sichuan province.

Verifying accounts is difficult, as foreign media are not allowed into the area.

Last Wednesday China's Premier Wen Jiabao said he was distressed by the self-immolations, describing them as "radical moves which undermine social harmony".

He said Tibetan areas would remain inseparable parts of China's territory.

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