This week was the 50th anniversary of the Chinese invasion of Tibet and on Tuesday there was a mass lobby of Parliament by the Free Tibet Group.
I met constituents who are staunch supporters of the Tibetans. They were very concerned about the fate of the people of Tibet and mentioned Human Rights’ abuses during the run up to and since the Olympics. We had a long talk about Tibet, and I was able to say that in the past I had heard the Dalai Lama speak and been introduced to him. I heard him speak at Cambridge University many years ago, when I was a student. He was calm, logical and very impressive. He recognised the power of China. Even after all these years, he is not calling for independence for Tibet, but for more autonomy within China, so that Tibetans can enjoy their culture and religion. David Cameron has recently met the Dalai Lama and my colleague David Lidington, Shadow Minister, has recently made representations to the Chinese at a high level.
Last year at the General Assembly of the Inter Parliamentary Union, the British delegation held a bilateral with China and I was able to raise my own concerns about Human Rights and Governance in Tibet. Sad to say, the Chinese just did not seem to get it. They were banging on about feudal religious practices with no understanding of the importance of a regional culture and religion. Happily, there are now talks between China and the Dalai Lama’s representatives and we will have to see if they do any good. It seems odd that a State which was able to provide a separate regional autonomy for Hong Kong is so blinkered about Tibet. Of course, Tibet has important natural resources they want, but it is hard to see why that means the Tibetans can’t fully enjoy their culture and traditions.
Campaigners want a thorough and independent inquiry into the reported excessive use of force, including against peaceful demonstrators in Tibet in Spring 2008 and Britain to establish a Tibet Desk at the British Embassy in Beijing, China.They also want us to appoint a UK Special Representative for Tibet. I have written to David Miliband, Foreign Secretary about these issues, asking his response. Given the realities of power, I believe the only way to resolve this is through dialogue between the Chinese authorities and the representatives of the Dalai Lama. In that light I welcome the new round of talks.
Our policy towards China and Tibet should be hard-headed and practical, and we must deal with the situation as it is and not as we wish it was. But to anyone who has read “Seven Years in Tibet”, “Land of a Thousand Buddhas” and other books about Tibet, visited and admired the peaceful Tibetan way of life or met Tibetan monks as my constituents had, the continuing failure of the Chinese authorities to be reasonable is a source of regret and must hold back that great country’s progress in opening to the World.