|Previous Section||Back to Table of Contents||Lords Hansard Home Page|
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, perhaps I may begin by talking about Wales. The noble Lord, Lord Thomas, was perhaps a little unfair. I felt it right to wait until we got to the end of the debate, and allow people to put questions about the position in Wales, before getting into too much detail. However, as I believe I made clear, the functions of the GTC will be taken over by the National Assembly for Wales. The GTC will be responsible to the First Minister in Wales and to the National Assembly. But we have to wait until the transfer of functions order which will take place, as the noble Lord, Lord Thomas, intimated, from 1st July of this year. When that happens, the Secretary of State will no longer be involved. It will be for the First Minister. I believe that the appointments would be made by him. I hope that that clarifies the situation.
We need to move forward on the setting up of the GTC. It would be wrong to have delayed introducing the regulations until after that date. The regulations will be covered when the transfer takes place; and the National Assembly and the First Minister will take this on.
The noble Lord, Lord Thomas of Gresford, also raised the issue of membership from those who will be nominated in Wales. I am sure that the National Assembly and the First Minister will want to take on some of the suggestions he made. It will be important that those with special educational needs and their teachers are represented, just as they will be in England. The same goes for parents.
Baroness Blatch: My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Baroness for giving way. First, why is it deemed necessary to make it explicit for the English council to have someone with special educational needs experience and someone representing the interests of parents on the council, but not for the Welsh council?
Baroness Blackstone: My Lords, I thought that I covered the last point in reply to the noble Lord, Lord Roberts. I had not been aware that he had been ill. I wish to add my welcome to him. It is good to see him back in the Chamber.
I think that the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, has forgotten that there has been widespread consultation on this matter, not just in England but also in Wales. The responses that we have received there have been extremely positive. The wish to get on with establishing the GTC is as strong there as it is in England. In the responses that have been received, there has been no suggestion that the number of people to be nominated is either too many or too few. It has been accepted that the number is about right and that there should be some flexibility for the balancing which must be done to make sure that the range of those who are represented is reasonable and one with which teachers and others in Wales can be happy.
I turn now to some other issues which have been raised. The noble Baronesses, Lady Blatch and Lady Maddock, asked about the appointment of the chairman. When saying that the chairman was to be appointed from one of the 13 allocated at present to the Secretary of State, I was not suggesting--and I hope that I can explain this--that the chairman would be taken from one of the 13 who had been nominated. That appointment will be made in advance of any other appointments made to the GTC. The idea is that we shall consult about the issue but the Government's current thinking is that it would be right to try to appoint the chairman before other members of the council are appointed for approximately a year before the council is able to select its own chairman. That is in order that the preliminary work should be done and that somebody should be in place to represent the council and its interests.
The noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, asked also about the Disability Rights Commission and the numbers to which that would give rise with an additional appointment in that regard. It will be 64 strong with that appointment. She questioned whether it would not be a good idea to stagger some of the appointments. Indeed, those appointments made by the Secretary of State will be staggered over a two to five year period in order to ensure that not everybody leaves the council at the same time.
The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, asked about the definition of junior pupils and whether that would include three and four year-olds--those in nursery and pre-school education. Yes, they will be covered by the elections made for teachers in junior schools.
My noble friend Lady David asked about the number of people on the council. I accept entirely that it is a large group the working of which will require considerable skill on the part of the chairman. But there are other public bodies of this sort of a similar size. I once chaired the General Advisory Council of the BBC which, when I took it over, had more than 60 members. We had to increase the size of the GTC to accommodate the commitment which we rightly made--and I believe my noble friend strongly supported it, as did other Members of your Lordships' House--that there should be a majority of teachers on the council. That means that it has become slightly bigger.
The noble Baroness, Lady Maddock, asked about gifted pupils. She commented on the importance of having representation for those with special educational needs. Again, that is something which the Secretary of State may wish to consider when making his appointments. But it may well be that one or more of the teachers elected will have a particular interest in gifted children. It is important that we do not neglect their needs in any way.
I think I have covered all the questions raised. However, I shall, of course, write to noble Lords who raise questions on any points I have not managed to cover. I believe that we must all welcome the General Teaching Council. The arguments for establishing the council have been very well rehearsed. At all stages we have tried to proceed through dialogue and consultation. Without this, I believe that the GTCs would fail to command the respect of both teachers and the wider educational world. We all want the GTCs to succeed. They have a key role to play in revitalising the profession. These regulations are a vital stage in giving councils the best possible start. I hope that the House will join me in approving them. I commend the regulations to the House.
The Earl of Carrick rose to ask Her Majesty's Government what they are doing to assist the Tibetans to have meaningful dialogue with the People's Republic of China leading to a negotiated settlement of the Tibetan issue.
The noble Earl said: My Lords, I start by saying how deeply sorry I was to learn today of the very untimely death of Derek Fatchett, who was such a sympathetic Minister towards the Tibetan issue. My every sympathy goes to his family and colleagues.
Turning to my Unstarred Question, it is pertinent to remind your Lordships that while the world now regards Tibet as part of China, that was not the case when the communist government used their military might to achieve their territorial aim. The invaders themselves deemed the country utterly foreign in culture and language and found a populace united in its hostility towards them. As the International Panel of Jurists concluded, Tibet was a de facto, if not de jure, independent nation and Britain never accorded sovereignty to China in the years we were the only nation other than China to have relations with Tibet.
Whatever the political realities of the present, we are dealing with a nation that has been annexed by force and which, ever since, the communist regime has ruled as a colonial outpost, often refusing its citizens basic freedoms. The Tibetans' need for our assistance and that of the world has never been greater. The country faces yet another crackdown which Amnesty International calls one of the most disturbing of the past decade in its attempt to crush the very identity of this ancient and unique nation.
Let us be clear about the current situation. China's so-called benevolent liberation resulted in the loss of over 1 million lives. Even after 40 years, refugees are still taking terrible risks to escape the oppression under which they live, despite Chinese insistence that all has never been better. Now matters have reached a nadir. The Tibetan language has been marginalised, and the people urged, and government workers ordered, to be atheist in a society defined by its belief in a remarkable form of Buddhism. We have official insistence that Tibet was never a British culture and a dismal record of intensifying racist bullying.
The trouble is, and always has been, that Tibet is of zero economic interest to anyone whereas China is vital to the whole world in the next millennium. Although the Government insist that there is no play-off between commerce and human rights, I am afraid that the current position of the Tibetans tells a very different story.
The trouble right now is that time really is running out and greater determination must be shown by all governments who care. Our Government should be aware not only of our historical duty but also of the fact that potentially we still have great influence. Europe looks to us for a lead. We could yet be instrumental in bringing a peaceful solution to one of the great humanitarian tragedies of this century.
Britain's change from recognising China's relationship with Tibet as one of sovereignty rather than suzerainty was done on the basis of genuine autonomy for the country, which has never manifested. A genuine autonomy is at the heart of Tibetan needs.
A senior Tibetan once said to me that while charity was deeply needed, it was fundamentally a small matter in the wider issue. Human rights, he continued, was obviously of far greater importance and the subject upon which most of the world concentrates. But even this was a side issue compared to the central point, which is nationhood, not independent of China but freedom from thought-control, freedom from repression and freedom to make decisions that accord with the special needs of the people and environment.
This is endlessly portrayed as "splitism" by the communist leadership where any attempt to assert aspects of Tibetan culture or religion is irrationally regarded as threatening to the vast motherland. But the truth is--this does not take a great turning of the mind from the leadership--the motherland would be stronger and better integrated if minorities such as the Tibetans and the poor Uighurs, who also face persecution, were willing rather than dissenting partners. Perhaps the Government could help Beijing to understand that simple truth.
Recently, China, with its customary utter disregard for world, let alone Tibetan, opinion, had the temerity to declare that as Tibet was already autonomous, what was the purpose of negotiating with the Dalai Lama? Here I come to one of the central dynamics of the situation. The Dalai Lama and the government in exile represent the means to an autonomy both democratic and ready to accord to the wishes of the Tibetan people. Here is an historically legitimate leader, yet one who has repeatedly affirmed that he would cede any temporal influence the moment democratic elections, by his wish under UN auspices, had taken place.
I return to the point we are talking about; that is, real autonomy, enshrining basic human rights and allowing a due degree of self-determination which does nothing to detract from China's strategic or commercial interests. Every single utterance by the Dalai Lama and the National Democratic Party of Tibet on the subject would be considered fundamentally reasonable, responsible and desirable in this House and by any other democratic government.
The Chinese are fond of extolling the benevolent transformations they have wrought in Tibet. Yet the country is almost unique in the degree to which access is controlled. I was part of a small parliamentary group that asked if an all-party delegation could go and see the wonders China was claiming for Tibet, pointing out that such high-level confirmation would vindicate the People's Republic from worldwide criticism. We asked to go on a more independent basis than the previously stage-managed visits by delegations or individuals. Of course the request was refused categorically. The Red Cross? No. Amnesty? No. Other charities or NGOs? No. Anyone remotely capable of monitoring the situation on the ground is just not tolerated. Such actions go beyond raising suspicions; they confirm our worst.
The latest example of double-speak and an unco-operative and rigid attitude, which is very serious and germane to this debate and the whole solution of the Tibet issue, again concerns the Dalai Lama. After giving every indication towards the end of last year that negotiations with His Holiness were at last a real possibility, not only did this hope vanish but it was replaced by a virulent anti-Dalai Lama campaign. He is now being described as wanting to lead Tibetans back to poverty, backwardness, ignorance and even advocating serfdom. In fact, the Dalai Lama's position has been consistent and seeks to address the fundamental points that would save Tibet as a nation and, as he is at pains to emphasise, draw Tibet willingly into an association with the People's Republic working with a spirit of respect for ethnic differences.
It is crucial for the Chinese to understand that if the problem of Tibet is not solved by negotiated settlement, it could cause long-term instability, violence and suffering to the region. As David Lambton, director of China studies at John Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies recently noted:
The Chinese bridle at any interference in their internal affairs. Yet they would do well to heed the words of our Prime Minister who, when speaking about the situation in Kosovo, declared that acts of genocide can never be purely internal matters. The UN Secretary-General, Kofi Annan, voiced the same sentiments to the Commission for Human Rights, saying:
Most of all, simply approaching the issue with an abiding determination to find a solution and to urge our friends to do the same would be of the greatest assistance. For the sake of stability in the region, for justice and for China's own standing in the world, Beijing must stop fearing the Dalai Lama: he is not the problem, he is the solution.
Baroness Elles: My Lords, the noble Lord, the Earl of Carrick, has given noble Lords the opportunity to raise the continuing problems surrounding the former autonomy of the people of Tibet and the ever-increasing control by the People's Republic of China over Tibetan territory. We are most grateful to the noble Earl for what he has said and the background he has given for this short debate.
We should look back over the last century and remember that the series of agreements between Tibet and China throughout the twentieth century had confirmed Tibetan autonomy, but was overridden by the Chinese invasion in October 1950, leading to the present critical situation and resulting in recent years in the deaths of over a million Tibetans.
Any hope of change in the situation of the Tibetans, which has weakened over the years, can only be improved by international action. As we have heard, negotiations with China, even with considerable renunciation of specific areas of control which have been offered by the Dalai Lama recently, do not give cause for optimism. Each time he has studied the situation and gone one step further down the road of reducing the autonomy of Tibet, China has rejected these offers and has consistently refused to come to any agreement or to afford any opportunity of discussion with the Dalai Lama about the situation in his country.
During the 1980s the Dalai Lama visited the European Parliament in Strasbourg, where he received a massive reception from widely differing political parties throughout Europe. He spoke of his hopes and objectives for his country. All the political parties were represented there. It was a vast meeting of over 300 Members of the European Parliament. I very much regretted that the then president of the European Parliament refused to take part because of the pressure from China on the presidency of the Parliament. We should always be aware of the background of pressure by the Chinese Republic and its emissaries throughout the world and its objections to any action, activity or discussion on the subject of Tibet throughout the world. In the free world we do not have to take any notice of this pressure, but we should be aware of it nevertheless and take action where necessary.
The Dalai Lama, since that visit to the European Parliament, has taken his message throughout Europe and specifically to America where there is strong support for the Tibetan people. It is well known that attempts to speak with the Chinese political leaders have led to failure on each occasion and have been followed by the strengthening of Chinese forces, as well as forcing vast numbers of civilians to pile through into Tibet, causing ever-increasing individual and collective suffering of the Tibetan people.
In contrast to the political and economic development of Western Europe, where non-members of the EU seek to become members and to join the existing 15 member states, the political developments in China are characterised by total abolition of the individual political regime of Tibet, with the gradual elimination of any national political system, language, religion and culture.
Having left his country in 1959, the Dalai Lama has established his base in Dharmsala in North India, together with his government-in-exile. World recognition of the strong desire for peace for his people and the actions that he has taken, which won him the Nobel prize, have not so far been proved enough to ensure the liberation of the Tibetan people. Of course, that is to be greatly regretted. Even acceptance of Chinese control over spheres of defence and foreign affairs would, with difficulty, lead to constructive discussions with the Chinese, especially, if I may say so, at the present time. Recent events in Belgrade would make it very difficult for the West to take any immediate part in such discussions in the hope of some peaceful and satisfactory conclusion. However, it is hoped that Her Majesty's Government will be able to contribute to and support the international attempt of the Dalai Lama, and his followers, to achieve his long-term aims based on non-violence for his country and his people.
Some 18 months ago, as patron of the all-party group, I led a small delegation to Dharmsala with Members of Parliament and members of the Tibet Society. Apart from the privilege of in-depth discussions with His Holiness, we were also able to visit the parliament which he had established. We met Ministers and members of parliament who had been democratically elected by Tibetans in exile to represent the districts in Tibet from which they, their parents or, in many cases, their grandparents had originally come. For me, it was a particular pleasure to meet their distinguished speaker, Samdhong Rinpoche. I have to say that he did not need much guidance or help from me as a former Speaker. However, in truth, I can say that the Tibetan parliament in exile, based on our Westminster system, is highly professional. Its debates were very well informed and well conducted. Ministers were genuinely held to account rather more than is often the case in our own Parliament at present.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama repeated on a radio programme this morning in an interview with Mr. Jeremy Paxman what he had told me in Dharmsala; namely, that he wished to relinquish his temporal responsibilities to a democratically-elected parliament; and this he has done. Furthermore, he told Mr. Paxman that if the Chinese allowed him to return to Lhasa he would do so on the basis that Tibet would be considered a part of China, and that he was seeking not independence, but, as the noble Earl said, a form of autonomy--genuine autonomy. Surely this is a pattern which in our own way we are seeking to achieve for ourselves in Northern Ireland, in Scotland and also in Wales. His Holiness concluded his interview with Mr. Paxman this morning by saying, "This is my ambition".
The present situation in Tibet, as the noble Earl, Lord Carrick, explained, parallels very closely the situation in Kosovo. The difference is that we do not see it on our television sets. The refugees from Tibet come over the Himalayas, frequently in very bad weather, because that is when the Chinese guards are less likely to apprehend them. Many of them, as I saw for myself, arrive with frostbite, many children having had limbs amputated as a result.
We are involved in Kosovo to stop the abuse of human rights and to allow the people of that province to return, not to an independent state, but to a measure of autonomy. In my talks with the Dalai Lama he told me that many young Tibetans in exile were telling him that his non-violent approach had failed and that the world would not take notice of the plight of the Tibetan people until they could return to Tibet with guns--and there are plenty of those around.
We in our country are rightly proud of our tradition of settling our disputes by a parley rather than by the gun. We regularly encourage others to follow our example. Surely we should practice what we preach. Surely His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who steadfastly espouses the path of non-violence in Tibet, deserves our support in all the ways that are open to us in achieving a peaceful, and above all a fair, resolution of the impasse faced by his people. As the noble Earl movingly said, he is, far from being a problem, in truth the solution to the problem, and he deserves our encouragement and our support.
Lord Thurlow: My Lords, may I start by associating myself very sincerely with the expressions of sympathy at the loss of Mr. Derek Fatchett. He was a great friend and supporter of the interests of Tibet. Before the change of government he took the trouble to go all the way up to St. Andrews to join in a briefing to inform himself more on the problems and questions of Tibet. His death is a very great loss to his colleagues in the Foreign Office, with whom I sympathise, and to us all.
We should not be too much put off from the right aims and objects by the present very unfortunate situation that has blown up in Belgrade. We cannot deny its seriousness nor the fact that for the time being it will affect every other aspect of relations with China. But these things will pass. A time will come when it will again be expedient and possible to make firm representations to China against its enormities. I express my thanks to the noble Earl, Lord Carrick, for his clear and very moving statement of the terrible situation Tibet now finds itself in.
The international community can do little to help, except by making known its views on the rights of Tibet, supporting His Holiness with his very modest requests, as the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, impressively said, and by pressing human rights issues in every possible international forum.
As the noble Earl said, political statements have been regrettably muted in recent years in the competition for contracts. That will pass. Nevertheless, an ethical foreign policy implies some readiness to sacrifice interests in support of wider aims. China has signed the human rights convention and is flouting its provisions in the most cynical way. It is up to us to maintain a firm line and to continue, as I am glad to say we have been doing, our efforts to stiffen the spines of our European Union partners.
Unfortunately, in 1950, with the invasion, the Indian Government, after an initial protest, refrained from anything that might offend the Chinese. Despite the readiness of the US Government to help, Nehru simply trusted the lies of the Chinese at Bandung and onwards. In retrospect, I believe that India considers that to have been a critical mistake. I was involved on the margins because I had to discuss the situation in Delhi with the Government of India at the time.
It would help our European partners and perhaps the United States if the Government would now put the record straight after 50 years of some confusion about status. The late Sir Algernon Rumbold, the old India Office expert, put it clearly. Denying the claim that Tibet had been part of China, he said:
Viscount Mersey: My Lords, I too am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Carrick, for introducing this debate. I have spoken before about Tibet and the Dalai Lama. Indeed, I believe that this is my fifth speech. Curiously, all our debates on that sad country follow the same course. Noble Lords on the Back Benches from all quarters of the House recite Tibetan atrocities, praise His Holiness and call for a measure of independence. The Government in reply say that they recognise the Dalai Lama solely as the spiritual head of Tibet and that the Chinese have suzerainty over Tibet in all other fields. Of course, the Government condemn obvious things like the torture of monks, but in a somewhat qualified way. The Government also meet the Dalai Lama, but again in a slightly qualified way. For instance, when His Holiness came to Committee Room 14 on the last occasion, the then Lord Chancellor, the noble and learned Lord, Lord Mackay, chaired the
I note that this time he is to be greeted by Madam Speaker. I hope that New Labour means a new attitude towards His Holiness. We shall be quite delighted if we get anything other than the standard government response--perhaps I should say the standard Whitehall response--because this matter is quite beyond party politics. As noble Lords have said, it is an international problem.
I must also say, sadly, that our debates in this Chamber have not made any difference to Tibet over the years. Each time we hold them, the situation is a little worse. The ethnic cleansing is more widespread. There is also the raping of nuns, the pulling down of monasteries and forcing children to shoot their parents.
The position of the Panchen Lama is a little worse than it was. What has happened to the boy who is the true Panchen Lama? What has happened to the monk who discovered him? Of course, the Chinese say that he is not the Panchen Lama and that he is perfectly all right. But has any Westerner actually seen the child? It is surely on the cards that both he and the monk are dead; but who knows?
This is a purely spiritual matter. If the Government accept that the Dalai Lama is the spiritual head of his country, I hope that they will try to explain what efforts they are making to persuade the Chinese to install the true spiritual Panchen Lama in post and to oust what I call the Chinese placement Panchen, who is of course an impostor.
I used the phrase "ethnic cleansing". As many noble Lords have said, we are engaged in stopping that in Kosovo. Why Kosovo and not Tibet? That is simple. Tibet poses no threat to us but Kosovo and the Balkans do. They also pose a threat to the stability of NATO.
Noble Lords may have heard His Holiness talking to Jeremy Paxman this morning about Kosovo. He said that we should oppose Milosevic but not use force. That has amazing relevance. He said that force can have unpredictable consequences. However, we have used force when our own interests and security are threatened. Thus it has always been and always will be. We used it in the Falklands to protect British sovereign territory; we fought in the Gulf to protect oil interests, and in Tibet. We invaded it when the Chinese empire collapsed at the start of this century. That was in our interest. We sent a force under Younghusband and then we made a treaty. It is this treaty that the Tibetans quote to us as proof of their autonomy and why they say they have a special relationship with the United Kingdom. Of course there can be no question of sending a military force to free Tibet from China now; I certainly recognise that. It would be the last thing that His Holiness would want.
I shall end by reminding your Lordships of two small parts of the Dalai Lama's teaching that I heard on the radio this morning: first, that it is not right to impose the Buddhist faith on others. Faith is a matter of individual freedom, otherwise, he says, "There will be a clash". Secondly, we should all behave as the humblest beggar because at the end of our lives we all become equally lowly.
More practically, I ask the new Government to succeed where earlier governments have failed and to find a way to give Tibet some measure of the autonomy we recognised in the Younghusband treaty, and, above all, to guarantee spiritual freedom to all Tibetans.
The Earl of Sandwich: My Lords, I warmly thank the noble Earl, Lord Carrick, for giving us this opportunity. It is unfortunate that the debate tonight and relations with China as a whole are overshadowed by the shocking incident over the weekend. However unpredictable warfare is, we must all regret the appalling mistake of NATO intelligence which led a pilot to bomb the Chinese embassy in Belgrade. But it does however raise the question of propaganda, at which the Chinese are adept. As one would expect, they are using the incident to the very best advantage, just as they have already criticised NATO for playing up ethnic cleansing as a pretext for invading Kosovo and extending its influence eastwards. I am sure that the Government will hold up their heads and refuse to kow-tow to China on this issue.
The same propaganda game is being played with the Dalai Lama, whose achievements in the West, surprisingly, I believe, have won considerable respect in China. An intelligent article in the Beijing newspaper Management and Strategy on 2nd January, monitored by the BBC and reprinted in Hong Kong, asks why westerners are so sentimental about Tibet. It concludes that it is the last refuge of western mysticism and idealism, embodied by the Dalai Lama himself. While complimenting the Dalai Lama on his success, the article accuses him of exploiting Tibetan history and philosophy to mislead the West, saying that his inability to control his pro-independence followers will be a cause of future unrest. It says:
The Dalai Lama's determination to defend a just cause, coupled with his patient willingness to compromise, deserves greater respect from China and continuing support from western governments through and beyond the present crisis.
Our successful trade with China should not inhibit us from countering China's propaganda and pursuing our independent policy of steady diplomacy. It is easy to see why it might. FDI rose from 42 billion dollars in 1996 to 52 billion dollars in 1997. It rose again in 1998. Foreign exchange reserves in China have soared throughout the 1990s. Foreign trade is very important to China, representing one-fifth of its gross national product. Britain is one of China's main trading partners within the EU and its share of China's exports continued to rise in 1997 and last year.
Sichuan province is the latest to open a UK office only a fortnight ago and has just sent a large delegation of its officials here. Tibet does not, however, benefit much from Britain's trade or aid. In the China Statistical Yearbook, Tibet is listed as one of the very poorest regions. Its annual GDP per head in 1997 was only 371 dollars, compared with 2,772 dollars in Shanghai, where most foreign investment is directed. Illiteracy in Tibet is still as high as 52 per cent. Tibetan language teaching has been in decline because of accusations of "splittism" which has left teachers as well as monks in detention.
The UN agencies have been working in Tibet for many years, with varying success. The World Food Programme has attempted to improve the income and food security of rural Tibetans in the Lhasa Valley for nearly a decade, but the programme was ill-conceived and helped the government more than poor Tibetans. The European Union ran into similar trouble, although the current Pa Nam rural development project benefits indigenous Tibetans.
The World Bank has been associated with another dubious scheme, resettling over 60,000 poor farmers in Dulan county, Qinghai Province, traditionally a home for Tibetan pastoralists. Two-fifths of the beneficiaries, it turns out, are Han Chinese settlers and none are Tibetans. The Minister may be able to tell us how much UK aid is going into these large international schemes. Among the bilateral aid donors, New Zealand, Australia and Canada have a good record of small-scale projects which serve people in Tibet. The UK does not have an active bilateral programme--perhaps the Minister could
China should value the support which the West gives to Tibet, not use it for propaganda. It should seize the opportunity to come to terms with the Dalai Lama, as has been suggested, as soon as possible, before it is too late and while he has earned the respect of his own people as well as of the outside world. European governments should continue to coax China towards these concessions and resist any temptation to enter trade partnerships without a regular dialogue on human rights.
Two-and-a-half years ago, when we last debated Tibet, I remember the inhibition of the Hong Kong handover, the fear that China might be displeased and turn on Hong Kong, if the West made too much of Tibet and human rights in China. The period since then has seen remarkable progress--the European Union-WTO talks are the latest example--and has shown how misplaced that fear would have been. The same is true of the embassy bombing. It is essential to keep reminding China, as we are now, of the strength of feeling both on Tibet and on human rights in China itself.
In our last debate, I spoke of tyranny and ethnic cleansing in Tibet. I cannot support an ANC-style struggle, favoured by some exiled Tibetans who are understandably desperate. Nor can I see China recognising Tibet as an independent country. But I am sure that if China negotiates more seriously with the Dalai Lama, it could see the end to repression and offer more genuine autonomy.
A new generation is growing up in Chinese cities, nurtured on a common awareness of the world and international relations--well aware of the rights of individuals and minorities. It is true that young Chinese will not have learnt anything about human rights from Europe this week, but, generally, they are more and more exposed to European culture and many of the advantages of western technology. Given time and diplomacy, China will move gradually towards greater understanding of the cultural identity and social needs of the Tibetans.
Finally, I add my own tribute to Derek Fatchett, whose personal commitment to human rights and minority peoples is well known. I went to see him recently about Burma. He had great concern for the minority peoples there too. In a debate in another place on 19th March, he made a clear statement of the Government's position on Tibet, of which I am sure we will hear something from the Minister tonight. It will be hard for Downing Street to find someone of similar quality.
Back to Table of Contents
Lords Hansard Home Page