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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."

David Miliband urged to make public statement on Tibet in China

March 15, 2010

12 March 2010

Free Tibet: UK must make amends for 2008 blunder recognising direct Chinese
rule over Tibet

Free Tibet has urged British Foreign Secretary, David Miliband, to make "a
public statement on Tibet and the British government's concern for the human
rights crisis there", during his trip to China next week.

In a briefing paper sent to Mr Miliband this week, Free Tibet emphasised the
"sensitive timing" of his visit which coincides with an intensified security
crackdown inside Tibet, announced by the Chinese authorities at the
beginning of March and which will continue throughout the visit (1). The
Foreign Secretary's trip also falls at the time of an especially sensitive
series of anniversaries in the Tibetan calendar.

Speaking in advance of next week's trip to China by the Foreign Secretary,
Free Tibet Director, Stephanie Brigden, said:

"Failure to make a public statement on Tibet will only be interpreted as
tacit support for China's ever more repressive regime inside Tibet. Not only
would it hand China a wholly undeserved propaganda victory and embolden the
Chinese authorities to carry on perpetrating further atrocities, but it
would also cast strong doubt on the British government's professed claim
that human rights are integral to its strategy for engagement with China."

Tibet will also be looming large over Mr Miliband's trip as it will be his
first to China since he made a highly controversial statement on Tibet in
2008. For 94 years Britain had been careful not to officially recognise
Chinese sovereignty in Tibet, preferring instead merely to recognise China's
"special interest" there. But in a statement (2) issued on October 29 2008
immediately after his return from his last visit to China, Mr Miliband
announced that henceforth Britain would regard Tibet "as part of the
People's Republic of China".

This major change to British policy was made without parliamentary scrutiny
and was cited as a victory by Chinese officials to envoys of the Dalai Lama
in early November 2008 shortly before China confidently announced that the
Sino-Tibetan Dialogue had failed and that China would "never" accept calls
for Tibetan autonomy. The Sino-Tibetan Dialogue was recently resumed when
the Dalai Lama's envoys travelled to Beijing in January. But remarks made by
the Chinese lead negotiator, Zhu Weiqun, that the sides remain "sharply
divided" and that there was no possibility of the "slightest compromise"
over Tibetan calls for autonomy (3) indicate continuing Chinese
intransigence over substantive dialogue.

In December 2008 Mr Miliband attempted to justify the diplomatic blunder to
the Foreign Affairs Select Committee (4) by arguing that that the change had
been made "because we thought it was in the interests of our own country and
its ability to forge, or argue for, human rights in Tibet and good relations
with China."

But sixteen months later there is little evidence to suggest that, by
offering up such a prized concession to China, Britain has enhanced its
ability to promote human rights in Tibet. In October 2009 China executed two
Tibetans, ignoring a request made just weeks earlier by a British Foreign
Office Minister on a trip to Tibet for the executions not to go ahead. And
the ineffectiveness of British strategies for promoting human rights in
China and Tibet was made clear when China publicly and angrily cancelled at
very short notice a human rights dialogue with Britain after Britain
protested at the execution last December of the British citizen, Akmal
Shaikh, in China. The government's failure to obtain a human rights dividend
from offering up the concession on Tibet was acknowledged by Parliament's
Foreign Affairs Select Committee which stated in August 2009:

"We conclude that there remains little evidence that the British
Government's policy of constructive dialogue with China has led to any
significant improvements in the human rights situation." (5)

Commenting further on the Foreign Secretary's visit to China, Free Tibet
Director, Stephanie Brigden, added:

"Following his last visit to China the Foreign Secretary sacrificed the
status of Tibet. On this return trip, therefore, he must make amends by
securing some real, and positive change for the Tibetan people. A strong
public statement during his visit, calling on the international community to
insist that China takes a substantive and results-orientated approach to
dialogue on Tibet would be a good place to start."
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