Sep 12, 2006

Tibet: China's Premier Visit to London Shouldn’t Ignore the Tibetan Issue

According to the Tibet issue and China's dire human rights record must be raised with Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, during his visit to London next week

London - The Tibet issue and China's dire human rights record must be raised with Chinese Premier, Wen Jiabao, during his visit to London next week. Precise details of the visit, for annual talks held between the governments of Britain and China, are still to be announced by Downing St.

Under Tony Blair, the British Government has assiduously sought to strengthen its commercial ties with China whilst failing to put meaningful public pressure on the Chinese leadership over its dire human rights record. As a result there have been no public statements of concern over the situation in Tibet by the Prime Minister following his recent meetings with Chinese leaders.

"Tony Blair failed to raise the issue of Tibet during Chinese President Hu Jintao's State Visit to Britain last year, despite substantial media and public attention on the Tibetan issue. It is imperative that next week he does not repeat his mistake of failing to reflect such concern and must discuss Tibet when he meets Premier Wen" said Matt Whitticase of Free Tibet Campaign. The House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee's report on East Asia (published 13 Aug. 2006) recommended "that the Government continue to raise human rights at the highest levels with Chinese counterparts and do not flinch from making public statements where appropriate."

Premier Wen's visit to Britain follows meetings in Helsinki of the EU-China Summit on 9 September and ASEM (The Asia Europe Meeting) on 10-11 September. "Free Tibet Campaign is extremely disappointed with both the EU and the Finnish Presidency that the agendas for both meetings conspicuously omit the crucial issue of human rights in China and Tibet" said Matt Whitticase. "Blair must follow the recommendation of the Foreign Affairs Committee Report and work within the EU to maintain the arms embargo."

Notes to editor:
In a letter to the PM Tony Blair, Foreign Secretary Margaret Beckett and Foreign Office Minister Ian McCartney Free Tibet Campaign raised the following issues:

1. In July China launched the Gormo (Golmud)-Lhasa railway. The railway, linking Tibet for the first time to the main Chinese rail network, has been a longstanding objective of the Chinese Government; it will assimilate Tibet more comprehensively into China. The project is strongly opposed by Tibetans who fear an increase of Han Chinese settlers' migration into Tibet, further diluting the Tibetan population. There are grave concerns of further Chinese militarisation of the Tibetan plateau, exploitation of Tibetan natural resources and environmental destruction.

2. Torture in detention is still widespread, as reported by the UN Special Rapporteur earlier in March.

3. Repression of freedom of religion in Tibet has been intensified through the re-launch of the "patriotic education" campaign in monasteries and nunneries, resulting with several cases of detention and expulsion of monks and nuns.

4. The whereabouts and welfare of Tibet's 11th Panchen Lama, who was abducted at the age of six in 1995, is still unknown.

5. The recent appointment of President Hu Jintao's protégé, Zhang Qingli, as the Communist Party Secretary of the Tibet Autonomous Region, will only intensify such concerns. He has spoken of a "fight to the death" with the Dalai Lama (The Times, London, 15 August 2006). Furthermore, the fifth round of talks between China and the envoys of the Dalai Lama concluded in Beijing on 23 February. The Dalai Lama's envoy to these negotiations, Lodi Gyari, has reported: "There is a fundamental difference even in the approach in addressing the issue". It is therefore time for the British Government to reassess the sincerity of the Chinese approach to the talks and to reapply pressure on the highest level of the Chinese Government.