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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Stifling Tibetan voices

August 24, 2008

While the Olympic games reach their climax, Tibet is in lockdown,
amid dire warnings of repression to come
Anne Holmes
Guardian (UK)
August 22, 2008

In the weeks leading up to the prime minister's departure for
Beijing, Tibetans and their supporters urged Gordon Brown to make a
strong public statement about China's broken promises on human rights
and on the need for an independent investigation into the situation in Tibet.

En route to Beijing, the prime minister told reporters that he would
be raising human rights concerns and the situation in Tibet with
Chinese leaders. No promise was made to make a strong public
statement, but hopes were raised that the British government might
finally stand up for the Tibetan people.

Sadly, that has not turned out to be the case. Instead of condemning
the lockdown of Tibet and the ongoing suppression of peaceful
protests or calling publicly for an immediate independent
investigation, the prime minister is today praising the Chinese
government for temporarily lifting reporting restrictions for foreign

This lifting of restrictions for foreign media (although never for
Chinese media) was the only Olympic promise the Chinese made even the
most cursory attempt to keep. Foreign journalists were told they
would be able to travel wherever they wanted and speak to whomever
they pleased – except in Tibet, which would still require a visa and
a minder. The new measures came into effect in January 2007 and are
scheduled to end in October 2008.

All too predictably, within days of protests breaking out in Tibet in
March, the Chinese authorities had evicted all foreign journalists.
Communication with people in Tibet has become increasingly difficult,
with Tibetans afraid to speak to outsiders and mobile phones being
cut off (or being answered by Chinese voices demanding to know who is calling).

Despite this, a picture is emerging from various sources of Tibet as
a country in lockdown. The Free Tibet campaign has provided a
briefing detailing huge military build-ups in many areas of Tibet,
with checkpoints on almost every corner and early evening curfews
imposed. Undercover Channel 4 footage has shown snipers positioned on
rooftops in Lhasa. Respected China analyst Willy Lam today suggests
the Chinese regime's pre-Olympics security build-up has been planned
to enable a major crackdown on dissent after the games are over.

Does the prime minister have anything to say about this? Not really.
According to Gordon Brown, "there is more common ground between the
Chinese authorities and Tibet than is sometimes realised". Really?
The Tibetan people think they should be allowed to own an image of
their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The Chinese government thinks
Tibetans should be tortured and imprisoned for owning an image of the
Dalai Lama. This sounds more like a gaping chasm than common ground.

It is very dispiriting to hear the prime minister yet again endorsing
the so-called talks between Chinese authorities and the Tibetan
government-in-exile. After the most recent round of talks in July,
the Dalai Lama's special envoy Lodi Gyari was forced to concede:

In the course of our discussions we were compelled to candidly convey
to our counterparts that in the absence of serious and sincere
commitment on their part the continuation of the present dialogue
process would serve no purpose.

Despite this, the British government continues to hide behind these
talks, holding up this charade as evidence that the Chinese
government is willing to seriously negotiate loosening its iron grip
on Tibet, its people and its vast mineral resources.

Gordon Brown is known to pride himself on developing close personal
friendships with the Chinese leaders. Friends tell friends when their
behaviour is unacceptable.

If, whilst accepting Chinese government hospitality at the Olympics,
the prime minister makes no stronger public stand about the human
rights violations in Tibet, he will be shaming himself and he will be
shaming the citizens he represents.
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