May 13, 2004

Tibet: Tibet issue clouding Chinese PM's visit

As Chinese premier Wen Jiabao begins his first official visit to the UK two Tibet movements are voicing their concerns about Chinese policy
A Free Tibet protester silently sits outside the Chinese Embassy
As Chinese premier Wen Jiabao begins his first official visit to the UK, two groups - Free Tibet and Falun Gong - are voicing their concerns about Chinese policy. BBC News Online explains why.
The long-running Free Tibet campaign is hoping to bring about an end to the controversial 54-year presence in Tibet of China.

Human rights groups have accused the authorities of the systematic destruction of Tibetan Buddhist culture and the persecution of monks loyal to the Dalai Lama, the exiled spiritual leader who is campaigning for autonomy within China.

Alison Reynolds of Free Tibet, standing outside Downing Street as Mr Wen held a meeting with Tony Blair, told BBC News Online there was a "small but dedicated" group of people protesting on Monday.

About 60 people had gathered, which she described as a good turnout "considering the short notice about the visit and that it was a week day".

She was hopeful that the small protest would have an impact on Mr Wen's visit.

"It is an important opportunity for progress on Tibet - not just at a political level, but also with the Dalai Lama's visit later this week.

"We have written to both the Chinese and British prime ministers, and sent postcards in their thousands over the past week. It's part on an ongoing campaign."

Mr Blair will not be meeting the Dalai Lama due to "diary pressures" - a move criticised by pro-Tibet groups.

Falun Gong meditated outside the Chinese Embassy
Falun Gong is a banned movement, variously described as a cult, sect or religion, and claims millions of followers around the world.

Chinese authorities consider the movement as subversive and have driven its followers underground in China.

However, in London, it followers were among the 60-odd protesters on Monday at Downing Street and the 150 protesters outside the Chinese Embassy the previous day.

Protesters meditated outside the embassy, following the "ancient practice for refining the body and mind, moral and spiritual elevation in accordance with the universal principles of truthfulness, compassion and forbearance", as its website describes.

It was banned in 1999 after thousands of members demonstrated in about 30 Chinese cities against the arrest of group leaders.

The UK Falun Gong group have accused one on Mr Wen's delegation - Bo Xilai - of torture of followers in China. Their bid to have Scotland Yard arrest Mr Bo when he arrived in London was turned down.

Source: BBC