Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Appendices to the Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Free Tibet Campaign

  Free Tibet Campaign stands for the Tibetans' right to determine their own future. It campaigns for an end to the Chinese occupation of Tibet and for the Tibetans' fundamental human rights to be respected. It is independent of all governments and is funded by its members and supporters.

  The following submission comments on the section of the Report that relates to China and Tibet on page 19, and the paragraph on page 113 concerning the policing of the State Visit of Chinese President Jiang Zemin.


  The presentation of the Human Rights Annual Report 2000 clearly reflects the criticisms made of last year's report, notably by the Foreign Affairs Select Committee. Many of these criticisms were evidently taken on board and a great deal more information about China and Tibet has been provided, despite the fact that there has been no change in policy. For the first time, the Report includes a section on Tibet. Free Tibet Campaign welcomes the increased attention and profile given to Tibet, but in this case presentation has taken precedence over content.


  1.  A little like renaming Windscale as Sellafield, "constructive engagement" (the expression used by Ministers and officials in the past) has been re-christened "critical engagement", but little else has changed in the past year despite a well-documented and serious crackdown in Tibet and China.

  2.  The Government does not acknowledge the merits of considering a multi-dimensional approach to tackling human rights and Tibet with China, rather than continuing its current "tick-box" foreign policy. The measures listed in the Report are limited to short exchanges between Ministers, the (much criticised) programme of Dialogue and associated co-operation projects, and the UN Commission for Human Rights—which is rejected as a mechanism.

  3.  The Government states that it encourages Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, and the Chinese to enter into dialogue over the future of Tibet, yet fails to acknowledge that this policy is compromised by the fact that the Government does not recognise and has no formal contact with the exiled Tibetan Government. Even when the Prime Minister met the Dalai Lama in May 1999, a senior member of the Church was present, to appease China and diminish the Dalai Lama's status to one solely of spiritual leader (unlike the Dalai Lama's meeting with President Clinton that November). On 6 July 2000, the European Parliament passed an Urgency Resolution, calling on EU member states to consider recognising the Tibetan Government in exile, if no progress has been made towards negotiations within three years.

  4.  The Report describes how Ministers raised concerns about individuals with their Chinese counterparts, but fails to acknowledge instances where China flouted or ignored these concerns. For example, the sentencing of Uighur businesswoman Rebiya Kadeer after Robin Cook expressed concern about her case to Tang Jiaxuan in October 1999. In last year's Memorandum, we also referred to the sentencing of democracy activist Xu Wenli in December 1998, within weeks of Tony Blair asking Jiang Zemin to end his arbitrary detention. Whilst the British Government is in no way responsible for China's actions in these cases, the Report would have provided a more accurate picture of how China can behave in response to quiet diplomacy if such instances had been acknowledged.

  5.  The report contains the following inaccuracies:

    (a)  it implies that the Dalai Lama has accepted Tibet as an autonomous region of China. In fact the Dalai Lama states that Tibet is an occupied country, but he has said that he would be prepared to negotiate "genuine autonomy" for Tibet (Box on page 19, paragraph 3); and

    (b)  1959 was not the 40th anniversary of the invasion of Tibet, which began in 1949-50, but the 40th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight into exile (page 19, paragraph 2).

  6.  The report does not explicitly state that the Government and the European Union feared China would cancel the dialogue if a resolution was sponsored at the 56th Commission for Human Rights, despite public admissions that this was the case by officials and by the Secretary of State to the Foreign Affairs Select Committee on 25 October 2000. As in the case of quiet diplomacy, this omission serves to give a slightly inaccurate picture of events.

  7.  We are glad to see that, following comments made about the 1999 Report, the 2000 Report acknowledges restrictions on Tibetans in freedom of religion, expression and association, in addition to the suppression of political dissent. But this does not go far enough. As stated in Free Tibet Campaign's submission on last year's report, in Tibet, an increase in controls over many aspects of daily life is dis-empowering and angering ordinary Tibetan people. These include:

  Economic policies—including China's "Go West" strategy which plans to exploit Tibet's natural resources, and consolidate political control through population transfer; the arbitrary taxation of Tibetans; fencing of nomadic lands and forced settling of nomads; economic discrimination in favour of Han settlers.

  Social impacts of Sinicisation—the loss of traditional Tibetan culture; introduction of prostitution and alcoholism; the marginalisation of Tibetans as a result of the high cost of education/restrictions on education in the Tibetan language.

  8.  The Report accurately acknowledges that politically sensitive events meant that 1999 would be a bad year for human rights in China and Tibet. The year 2000 has, if anything, been worse in Tibet with a major crackdown on freedom of religion, involving late night house to house searches for religious artefacts.


  9.  The Report states that "the Metropolitan Police reviewed the operation and full account will be taken during future State Visits of the lessons learnt." Free Tibet Campaign's legal challenge to the Metropolitan Police in May 2000 resulted in a declaration of unlawful behaviour, which directly contradicted the findings of the Met's internal review (published March 2000). We are concerned that the Met's internal review was therefore inadequate and that the correct lessons have not been learned. Specifically, we have asked:

    (a)  How did the unlawful behaviour of the Metropolitan Police officers come about? The explanation given, ie that it "may have arisen as a result of a misunderstanding concerning the interplay of the Vienna Convention, the complex Royal Parks bylaws, the general requirement for maintaining order and the responsibility to allow free protest." (Assistant Commissioner Ian Johnston) is absurd.

    (b)  Why did the Metropolitan Police's internal review fail to identify that such behaviour was unlawful?

    (c)  Why have the Metropolitan Police not explained attempts to remove flags/suppress protest away from Royal Parks? On 20 October 1999, police attempted to remove a flag tied to the balcony of a flat in Wapping. Officers were clearly briefed to recognise the Tibetan flag. A Uighur protester had an officer attempt to remove his flag on the South Bank on the same day, and a Chinese woman wishing merely to hold up a small photo of an imprisoned son were hustled from Tower Bridge—all while Jiang Zemin was travelling by river to Greenwich. These incidents are well away from Royal Parks, so cannot be attributed to the risible explanation in (a).

    (d)  Whether there was pressure from the British and/or Chinese governments on the Metropolitan Police to remove flags and banners in the Mall and elsewhere from people "solely on the basis that they were protesting against the Chinese regime". (Police declaration.)

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