Fiji's Interim Prime Minister has had to defend his stand in the China-Tibet issue after mounting criticism and allegations of supporting abuse of human rights.

According to the Fiji Times Online, Frank Bainimarama, the country's Interim Prime Minister and military commander, issued a statement yesterday saying that 'Fiji's stand on the Tibet issue is a principled one within the parameters of the law with a need to maintain peace and harmony' and that 'there was nothing sinister or inappropriate about the message which Fiji has sent to Beijing, pertaining to demonstrations and violence perpetrated by protesters in Lhasa, Tibet'.

Fiji's interim government had earlier in the week sent an official letter to Beijing, according to Fiji Live, 'supporting China's actions to halt dissent in Tibet' and there was confirmation from the Prime Minister's office that the letter was 'expressing Fiji's support for Beijing's tough response to riots in Lhasa Tibet's capital, on March 14'.

There were immediate criticisms of the move with Fiji's deposed Opposition Leader, Mick Beddoes, saying that the 'interim Government's support of the way China is handling the situation in Tibet is an endorsement of abuse of human rights'. Futhermore, Fiji Times reports, Mr. Beddoes says the 'regime's show of support condoned the use of excessive force to resolve issues as opposed to dialogue'.

Fiji Women's Crisis Centre coordinator, Shamima Ali, was also reported as stating that 'the regime stand was to be expected given that it had failed to respect or adhere to human rights principles' and that it was 'obvious that this interim Government is protecting its own interests by placing its support behind the Chinese Government as they are now dependent on aid from China'.

Concern has also been voiced from New Zealand with its Green Party MP Keith Locke stating, as reported by Newstalk ZB, that 'it is bad enough interim Prime Minister Commodore Voreqe Bainimarama trampled on democracy in Fiji, let alone supporting Beijing's suppression of Tibetan rights'.

In his statement yesterday, the Fiji Times Online quotes Bainimarama as saying, "We have supported the People's Republic of China's stand on resolving the issue peacefully within the law".

"Fiji has always maintained the stand that Tibet is an internal matter for the People's Republic of China to deal with. This is similar to China's stand on Fiji's situation. The fact that the protesters are trying to associate their grievances, if any, to a major international event such as the Beijing Olympics, further warrants appropriate action by the government of the People's Republic of China to maintain peace and stability."