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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Gordon Brown should take a risk over Tibet

March 19, 2008

Much to his surprise, the Guardian's senior political commentator finds
himself agreeing with former foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind

Guardian, UK
March 18, 2008 1:13 PM

Whenever I hear Sir Malcolm Rifkind pontificating on radio and TV I
usually shout ''Bosnia'' to remind myself what a bad fist of things the
former Tory foreign secretary made of the blood-stained Balkan crisis in
the mid-90s.

When I heard him this morning, urging Gordon Brown to see the Dalai Lama
when he visits London in May I got as far a shouting "Bo..'' before I
realised that - this time - Riffo is right.

It's always a bit harder when you're in government, as Rifkind knows
perfectly well. Governments have to pick and choose their fights, as Mrs
Thatcher refrained from doing over the handover of Hong Kong.

China is getting more important by the day as western banks cut their
own throats. It is not only running this year's Olympics, it's
cooperation will be needed to pave the way for London's turn in 2012.

In the Commons yesterday, when Brown was challenged to give the
spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism a cup of tea by both David Cameron
and Nick Clegg, he equivocated. ''All of us are concerned about what is
happening there. We have made our views known to the Chinese authority.
We believe there should be restraint...'' etc etc.

But will he follow George Bush and Angela Merkel in condemning Beijing's
handling of the crisis, asked Clegg?

GB chose to take refuge behind an EU statement, due later, though the
issue had not been discussed at last weekend's EU summit, he conceded.
We spoke out over Tiananmen Square, despite the delicacy over the Hong
Kong negotiations, Rifkind added today.

The No 10 line appears to be that Brown will see the Dalai Lama in a
low-key way when the time comes, but deems it better for British
influence with China not to say so yet. Not very heroic, it runs the
risk at a bad time - polls awful etc - for his government. As with the
Lisbon summit, signing it reinforces a notion of indecisiveness.

Ironical then that the Dalai Lama's non-violent approach to the 40-year
stand-off with China - or do I mean 2,000 year? - is being rejected by
younger direct-action radicals.

Beijing is resettling Han Chinese in the region, a familiar imperial
tactic which doesn't usually work but does sew the seeds of future
conflict. Britain spoke out over Burma. Time to take a risk and be counted.
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