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Foreign Office minister calls on Olympians to speak out

March 22, 2008

By Nigel Morris and Andrew Buncombe in Dharamsala
Thursday, 20 March 2008

As Tibetan protesters continued to rally and demonstrate against Chinese
rule, a Foreign Office minister delivered Britain's strongest
condemnation yet of Beijing's handling of the crisis.

Lord Malloch-Brown called on UK athletes at this year's Beijing Olympics
to "speak the truth" about what was happening in the country. His
surprise intervention exposed growing tensions in British government
ranks over how to respond to the unrest in Tibet and China's human
rights record.

Gordon Brown had earlier risked the anger of Beijing by announcing he
would meet the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, when he
visits Britain in May. But the Prime Minister's instinctive preference
for cautious diplomacy was undermined by his minister's strongly-worded
warning to Beijing not to resort to brute force against the demonstrators.

Lord Malloch-Brown said: "China will damage its own interests and the
reputation of the event, perhaps irrevocably, if there is extensive

He said: "We will expect to see our athletes respect both the values of
Britain – courtesy and respect for the country where the Games are – but
also that supremely important value of speaking the truth as they see it."

He made it clear he did not support a boycott of the Olympics. But
added: "We, however, as a Government, remain extremely concerned about
the situation in Tibet. We urge restraint by all sides."

Mr Brown has always been much more restrained in his language over
Tibet, perhaps mindful that a full-blown crisis over the Beijing
Olympics could have a knock-on effect on the London games in four years'

The Prime Minister disclosed that the Beijing government had told him it
was prepared to hold talks with the Dalai Lama. He revealed yesterday in
the Commons that he had spoken with the Chinese premier Wen Jiabao to
urge the authorities to show restraint in dealing with protesters. "I
made it absolutely clear that there had to be an end to violence in
Tibet," Mr Brown said.

"The premier told me that, subject to two things that the Dalai Lama has
already said – that he does not support the total independence of Tibet,
and that he renounces violence – that he would be prepared to enter into
dialogue with the Dalai Lama."

Lord Malloch-Brown's intervention on the Olympics came as Beijing vowed
to take the Olympic torch to Tibet despite the provocation that represents.

"The situation in Tibet has essentially stabilised, the Olympic torch
relay will proceed as scheduled," Jiang Xiaoyu, executive vice-president
of the Beijing Organising Committee for the Olympic Games, told reporters.

The prospect of talks between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama
came as demonstrations continued in Tibet, despite a crackdown by
Beijing that has killed an unknown number of people. Whatever
undertaking the Chinese premier may have given Mr Brown, in public
officials continued to describe the Dalai Lama as a "wolf in monk's
robes, a devil with a human face but the heart of a beast".

In Dharamsala – home to the Tibetan exiles – hundreds of Buddhist monks
and civilians have been marching in protest: "We are showing the world
what is happening in Tibet," said one monk, Tashi. "If Tibet is lost,
then the world will lose peace and compassion."
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