Pressure on UK on anniversary of Tibet uprising

By politics.co.uk staff

Pro-Tibet activists are putting pressure on Gordon Brown to secure action from China on the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising.

More than 80,000 people are thought to have died in the 1959 revolt, which saw the Dalai Lama flee to India.

A coalition of UK-based Tibet groups has written to the prime minister to outline the rapidly worsening human rights situation in Tibet.

The coalition also recommends a series of what it considers to be achievable measures which would lead to an immediate improvement to the situation on the ground in Tibet.

The recently strengthened bilateral relationship between Britain and China “should provide the opportunity to address not only issues of mutual interest but also more sensitive areas, including fundamental human rights in Tibet and support for the Tibetan people’s right to self determination,” the letter reads.

Meanwhile Conservative Group MEP Edward McMillan-Scott, who is a European parliament vice-president and the longest-serving member of its Foreign Affairs Committee, accused foreign secretary David Miliband of ‘treachery’ over Tibet.

Referring to a parliamentary answer by Mr Miliband in which he said that “like every other EU member state, and the United States, we regard Tibet as part of the People’s Republic of China”, Mr McMillan-Scott launched a strongly worded attack on British foreign policy.

“Instead of giving the EU a lead, given Britain’s earlier role in Tibet, David Milliband’s treacherous statement last November fatally undermines the position of most Tibetans, who are desperate for freedom.

“At a stroke he condemned a nation. It is lamentable that the British government should mark the 50th anniversary of international abandonment of this unique and spiritual people by effectively conceding to Beijing. This is a new low point in British foreign policy.”

This time last year a decision by government security forces to stop Buddhist monks from commemorating the date in Lhasa led to further demonstrations against the Beijing government.

Aid groups claim up to 200 protestors died when troops began using lethal force, but the government claims rioters themselves killed more than 20 people.

On today’s half-century anniversary, the Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader of Tibet and the leader of its government in exile at Dharamshala – is urging restrained commemorations.

Strict security measures are in place for the anniversary, with high-visibility patrols and armoured personnel carriers being deployed in Tibet and its neighbouring provinces.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama and his clique of pursuing a “splittist” agenda, but the Buddist leader insists he wants further autonomy, not outright independence.

Human rights groups are using the date to urge the Chinese government to allow monitors into the region.

Amnesty International UK claims arbitrary detentions and arrests, the imprisonment of peaceful protestors and other prisoners of conscience, as well as torture and the ill-treatment of detainees are all still rife in Tibet.

“The government position signals a failure by the Chinese authorities to acknowledge the depth of the long-standing grievances hold by the Tibetan population and is a misguided stance if social stability is the government’s goal,” said the deputy director of the group’s Asia-Pacific programme Roseann Rife.