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Noble Lords: Hear, hear.

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10.2 p.m.

Baroness Strange: My Lords, this year there have been many demonstrations and vigils to mark the fortieth anniversary of Tibetan resistance to the Chinese invasion of Tibet. We are all grateful to my noble friend Lord Carrick for raising this issue so well and comprehensively tonight.

Earlier this year, some of us, wearing Tibetan ribbons--I borrowed that of the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey--watched the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, place a wreath in Tibetan colours outside Westminster Abbey. We were all given white silk Tibetan scarves of friendship, which we tied to the railings--where they fluttered in the wind like Tibetan prayer flags. It was a small and rather moving ceremony, as we watched the blustery March wind catch the ends of the silk scarves.

Forty thousand Chinese troops first invaded Tibet in 1950. Since that time, more and more Chinese have poured in. In the past 59 years, an estimated 1.2 million Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese. During the uprising of 1959, approximately 430,000 were killed and His Holiness the Dalai Lama escaped into exile in India.

During the past 40 years, thousands of Chinese poured into Tibet and settled there. The two regions of Amdo and Kham were totally taken over by the Chinese, whose population in Tibet now outnumbers by many times that of Tibetans. Those two regions have been given new Chinese names and are not even counted as part of Tibet--which they are. Even in U'Sang--now called by the Chinese the Tibet Autonomous Region--there are more than 5 million Chinese, compared with 4.5 million Tibetans.

During the early 1960s, hundreds of thousands of nomadic Tibetans died or starvation. Many more have been tortured and imprisoned. Thousands of monasteries have been destroyed; monks and nuns turned out; and sacred texts annihilated. The Tibetans were a good and peaceful people--tending their gardens, growing vegetables and flowers, loving children and dogs. We gave a lunch for Professor Samdhong Rinpoche of Varanasi University in October 1997. When he arrived, we walked together through the late summer garden with our dogs bounding at his heels. He picked an apple from a tree and ate it. He said, "It is so long since I was at home in Tibet, in my own garden, able to pick fruit and walk among the flowers with my dog."

The Chinese have also cut down the vast natural forests north of Tibet, which has caused much erosion among the rivers. All the soil has been released because there are no tree roots to hold it back. That action has not only increased the floods in Bangladesh but the soil has swept down into China and clogged up the new dams there. Tibet is also rich in mineral resources, which are now being mined and being taken away by the Chinese.

On Thursday of this week His Holiness the Dalai Lama is to open a new peace garden beside the Imperial War Museum. That is a place of peace and meditation, symbolically under the huge guns of the museum. I have brought down to plant in it a cutting of a single white

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Banksian rose taken from the very first one imported by my ancestor Captain Robert Drummond in the sailing ship "General Elliot". He obtained this from the Botanic Garden in Canton in 1793. This rose is a cutting from the original stock which still grows and flourishes in our garden in Scotland, having come from China--or perhaps even more distantly from Tibet--and sailed across the seas of the world to take root and grow in Scotland. I hope that this white rose of peace will grow and flourish in the garden of peace and, with its sharp, sweet scent, will like the white prayer flags on the railings of Westminster Abbey, blow the wise words of the Dalai Lama into the hearts of the Chinese people.

10.6 p.m.

Lord Avebury: My Lords, we are all shocked and saddened to hear of the tragic and sudden death of the Minister, Derek Fatchett, who was in China only last month and also in Korea, Hong Kong, Indonesia and East Timor. I pay tribute to him from these Benches as an immensely hard working and effective member of the Government. His contribution will be very hard to match. Mr. Fatchett was doing the work shared by two Ministers in the previous administration but he was always on top of the job. Only last week he answered a Written Question from my honourable friend Dr. Jenny Tonge, reaffirming that we considered the best way to make progress on the question of Tibet was by direct dialogue rather than through the United Nations. But I believe that he had not yet given a full report on his discussions with the Chinese, and we may hear something of the results of his visit later. We send our deepest sympathy to his widow and family.

With the visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama this week, and the scheduled visit of President Jiang Zemin in the autumn, Britain has a chance to help revive the proposals for a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities which all British governments have espoused over the years. That has been a theme of many speeches this evening. I also share the hope that has been expressed that we can repair the damage done to Anglo-Chinese relations by the horrendous mistake of NATO in attacking the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade certainly well before President Jiang comes here in, I believe, October.

We have to decide whether to continue with the EU policy of bilateral dialogue with China on human rights or to admit frankly that it has failed and therefore, presumably, confine ourselves to one-way criticism, forfeiting the chance that may arise for personal contacts such as the EU troika ambassadors' visit of May 1998 and the forthcoming repetition of that visit next month. The Dalai Lama himself believes that we should persevere with the dialogue both on the constitutional status of Tibet and the individual human rights violations of the Tibetan peoples. The question is whether any other policy would secure better results. I have not heard of any convincing alternatives.

However, the engagement with the Chinese should not mean that we avoid all public mention of the issues at stake or that we conduct the dialogue in accordance with rules laid down by Beijing. This should be a

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reciprocal process. We know that there are many things with which the Chinese find fault in western society. They have every right to say what they think about us and we have a duty to respond frankly to their criticisms, just as we expect them to respond to ours.

On this reasoning, the Prime Minister should receive the Dalai Lama without having a Church dignitary present to imply that the discussion is concerned solely with matters of faith, as the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, pointed out. Obviously, one of the important questions in this discussion is whether, and if so how, we can help to promote the negotiations between the Chinese and the Dalai Lama that the Government would like to see. That is a political matter. The Dalai Lama would be giving his opinion as the political leader of the Tibetan people widely respected in Lhasa, as the EU troika saw for themselves when they went there. Meeting him in that capacity would not imply a commitment on the part of the Prime Minister to the independence of Tibet. But it would underline our firm belief that His Holiness must be involved in discussions on the future of Tibet.

Two of the advances said to have been achieved through the policy of constructive dialogue were China's signature of the ICCPR in October 1998 and the visit by the High Commissioner, Mary Robinson, in September last year. But the European Union, in its statement before the Commission of Human Rights on 31st March, recognised the mismatch between,

    "the positive signals sent out by the Chinese Government mostly concerning co-operation with the human rights mechanisms of the United Nations", and what it called the "grave setback" on the ground with a crackdown on political dissidents, detentions and harsh court sentences, to which noble Lords have referred.

In the case of Tibet in particular, two monks from Drepung monastery near Lhasa were arrested under suspicion of attempting to contact the commissioner when she was there, hoping to deliver a letter expressing their concern over the detention of the child chosen by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the Panchen Lama, whose case has been referred to by the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey. The Panchen Lama is 10 years old and the world's youngest political prisoner. We have repeatedly asked to see him and check on his welfare and have been repeatedly refused, thus raising suspicions as to his welfare and health, or fears that he may have been harmed or even brainwashed by the Chinese. The letter from those monks was also said to have referred to the May 1998 Drapchi prison protests which resulted in the deaths of at least 10 Tibetan prisoners, under the noses of the EU troika delegation who were completely unaware of the incident and did not refer to it in their June report.

Do we have any further information about the tragedy of Drapchi and the continuing ill-treatment of prisoners there, in particular the surviving nuns? What information have we about the health of the nun, Ngawang Sandrol, since she was beaten and, we understand, severely injured? In the further EU

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delegation to Tibet, which is to take place either later this month or early next month, I hope that they will raise these issues which have not yet been resolved.

When these matters are raised with the Chinese, do we give them an aide-memoire of our concerns, and do we ask for detailed replies in writing? Of course we have no means of compelling them to give the information for which we ask if they choose not to do so, but if, whenever we spoke to them, we published these aide-memoires and any replies that we receive from Beijing, readers would be able to form their own impression as to whether China is,

    "signing bits of paper but changing nothing".--[Official Report, Commons, 19/3/99; col. 1466.] as my honourable friend Mr Norman Baker put it in his adjournment debate on 19th March. In two different contributions noble Lords referred to the cynical attitude of the Chinese in signing these instruments with no intention of doing anything about them. Alternatively, is there any real improvement in China's human rights performance, as Ministers imply when they speak of the 12 developments since we embarked on the policy of constructive engagement? An exchange of aide-memoires and replies from both sides would not imply that we laid claim to judge China or vice versa, but that we would provide the materials on which the international community could form a collective judgment. In this way, I believe that Europe could supplement the work of the Commission on Human Rights, and help to ensure that in the medium to longer term the people of Tibet could largely take charge of their own affairs.

10.13 p.m.

Baroness Rawlings: My Lords, I congratulate the noble Earl, Lord Carrick, on initiating this important and interesting debate on Tibet. The outstanding contributions from your Lordships' House have again demonstrated something of which the Minister is already well aware: that the situation in Tibet is rightly of genuine great concern both to this House and to the public in general.

Tibet's history over the past 50 years has been turbulent indeed. From the day that the People's Liberation Army entered Tibet in 1951, and through the years of the Cultural Revolution, deeply damaging and perhaps irreversible inroads have been made into the traditional Tibetan way of life. The Chinese Government's invidious official policy to produce a future Tibet which is predominantly Han Chinese has been described as one of the worst crimes in the second half of this century.

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the exile from Tibet of the Dalai Lama following the failure of the Tibetan national uprising in 1959 when Tibetans rebelled against nine years of cruelty by the Communist Chinese occupation. According to one estimate, more than 400,000 Tibetans were killed by Chinese troops, while in the 20 years which followed 150,000 Tibetans were executed and 170,000 more were tortured.

With the end of the Cultural Revolution, there were glimmers of hope for Tibet's future as dialogue was initiated between the Chinese authorities and the Dalai

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Lama, with Peking indicating a willingness to accept the return to Tibet of the Dalai Lama and his followers under certain conditions. But those hopes were dashed when, in 1987, there was a major change in Chinese policy towards Tibet.

The status of Tibet is clearly one of the key issues in any future settlement. Together with the rest of the international community, successive British governments have regarded Tibet as autonomous while recognising the special position of China there. We believe now, as we did in government, that the Tibetans should have a greater say in running their own affairs in Tibet. Although Britain has never recognised the Dalai Lama as the head of the Tibetan government in exile, he has always been acknowledged as a highly respected spiritual leader, Nobel Peace Prize winner and an influential force in Tibet.

The debate this evening, appropriately, takes place during the visit of the Dalai Lama to London. In March, the Minister of State said that he would be met at an appropriate level by members of the Government. Will the Minister say which members of the Government have taken the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama and what progress was made as a result of the meeting?

The gap between the stated position of the two sides--the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government--would appear to be bridgeable given that no Chinese government for centuries have been prepared to accept the idea of an independent Tibet. There is no reason to believe that that will change in the foreseeable future. The Dalai Lama has shown great courage and wisdom in accepting the impracticality of insisting on independence. Instead in His Holiness's speech in Strasbourg 11 years ago, to which I had the privilege of listening, as did my noble friend Lady Elles, he outlined the concept of "two families under one roof". He has called for an autonomous Tibet within China, as mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill.

Chinese spokesmen have responded by stating their willingness to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama if he renounces independence and pro-independence activities. The problem appears to be one of will, especially on the part of Peking. That becomes acutely apparent when the Dalai Lama's response and the Chinese authorities' response to the 40th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's exile are contrasted. The Dalai Lama used the occasion to appeal for an end to what he called the deep distrust between Tibetans and the Chinese and called for face-to-face meetings and sincere dialogue to dissipate that distrust; while the Chinese Communist newspaper, the People's Daily, described the past four decades as a golden chapter in the history of human rights in Tibet and called the Dalai Lama,

    "a tool in the hands of western forces", who has,

    "done nothing good for the Tibetan people in his 40 years of fugitive life".

There is consensus in this House that the human rights situation in China as a whole, including Tibet, remains an issue of key importance in our relations with the Chinese authorities. The major and social economic change that China--a geographically vast developing

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nation with more than 1.2 billion people--is undergoing has led and will continue to lead to increased domestic pressures for human rights reforms. It was for that reason that under the previous administration we did not believe in a policy of isolating China during this critical period of change and reform.

Nevertheless, it was one of the critical elements of our engagement with China that we made clear, without a shadow of a doubt, the depth and scale of our concern in respect of fundamental political, ethnic and religious freedoms. We did not shirk from criticising Chinese policies and actions if and when events warranted it, as demonstrated by our willingness to co-sponsor the resolutions which drew attention to China's record on human rights, introduced in 1989 after the Tiananman Square massacre, at the annual United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva.

However, there was amazement and scepticism among human rights campaigners when in 1998, for the first time in nine years, the United Kingdom Government did not support such a resolution, particularly in view of the Government's much publicised ethical dimension to their foreign policy. When asked why, for the second year in a row, the Government had failed to table or to co-sponsor a resolution on human rights in China at the 55th United Nations Commission for Human Rights, the noble Baroness, Lady Symons, cited the merits of a dialogue-based approach.

The Minister described the results of this policy as,

    "limited progress in some areas". However, the decision of the United States Government to introduce a resolution on China's human rights practices at the most recent UN Commission on Human Rights was based on their belief that,

    "the Government of China's human rights record has deteriorated sharply since over the past year".

Can the noble Baroness reconcile what she has described as "limited progress" with what the US Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, described as,

    "a sharp deterioration in the human rights situation in China"? Can she say what effect the Government's policy has had on improving the human rights situation in Tibet and in what way it has illustrated that Tibet forms an essential and central part of what we are trying to do on human rights? Finally, can the Minister tell the House to what extent the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade on Friday night has damaged our diplomatic relationship with China, including the extent to which any influence the Government may have brought to bear on the question of Tibet has been impaired?

There is no doubt that the treatment of Tibetans by the Chinese Government in the five decades since the founding of the People's Republic of China has been inconsistent with international standards on human rights, and therefore is unacceptable. There have been moments in the 1950s and the 1980s when it seemed possible that a more enlightened policy from Peking might prevail, but these moments have proved to be short-lived.

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There is also no doubt that the world needs a strong and stable China. The whole House looks forward to the day when China can take her rightful place in the international community and can assume the role of leadership to which China's past entitles her, her future should assure her but her present denies her. China can only play a full part in global affairs when she conforms to the international rules by which the rest of the world has agreed to abide. Until human rights problems are solved and while Tibet is treated as it is, China can never be completely accepted internationally.

A leap of political will and faith is needed on the part of the Chinese leadership. From these Benches I assure the Minister that we will continue to support the Government when they use every opportunity available to enable Peking to make that leap of faith. The preservation of Tibet's unique cultural and religious traditions and the very future of thousands of Tibetans depend upon it.

10.25 p.m.

Baroness Symons of Vernham Dean: My Lords, I, too, am grateful to the noble Earl, Lord Carrick, for raising the issue of Tibet, for providing us with an opportunity to discuss it this evening and Her Majesty's Government with an opportunity to set out our views on this matter.

Before I turn to the detailed questions raised by your Lordships, I thank all noble Lords who have spoken, sometimes very movingly, about the sad death of my colleague Derek Fatchett. Many Members of the House had the opportunity earlier this afternoon to express their great sadness at his passing and I will convey the words of sympathy from your Lordships this evening, and indeed my heartfelt sadness for a supportive, gifted and much admired colleague.

I should like to begin with some general comments. Obviously we are deeply concerned about reports of human rights violations, not only in Tibet but elsewhere in China and wherever they occur. Your Lordships are aware of this Government's commitment to the promotion of human rights; it is a centrepiece of our foreign as well as our domestic policy.

The noble Earl expressed his understandable worries about the situation in Tibet. I can assure the noble Baroness, Lady Elles, that Tibet is rightly an issue of special concern to both the public and Parliament, as my department's weekly postbag of correspondence testifies. It was brought sharply into focus this March, which marked the 40th anniversary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's exile from Tibet.

The Government share the deep concerns expressed by many in this House, particularly the noble Earl, and are actively addressing them with the Chinese both through our bilateral human rights dialogue and the EU/China human rights dialogue. The situation in Tibet and the plight of individual Tibetans features prominently in both.

But I must remind your Lordships that successive British governments have regarded Tibet as autonomous, while recognising the special position of China there. That continues to be the Government's

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view. Tibet has never been internationally recognised as independent and this Government do not recognise the Dalai Lama's "government-in-exile". However, I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, that we believe that the Tibetans should have a greater say in the running of their own affairs in Tibet, and have urged the Chinese authorities to respect the distinct cultural, religious and ethnic identity of the Tibetans.

We welcome the present visit to the UK of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who is a highly respected spiritual leader. In that capacity my right honourable friend the Prime Minister had a meeting with him this afternoon and my right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary looks forward to seeing him during his visit. So to answer the points raised specifically by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings, His Holiness is being seen in that capacity at the highest levels in government. I must make clear that we do not recognise the Dalai Lama as the head of the Tibetan government in exile. It is in his spiritual capacity that he is being received by my right honourable friends.

Her Majesty's Government believe that the best way to achieve a lasting solution to the situation in Tibet is through dialogue between the Chinese Government and the Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, without preconditions. I hope that that is the kind of view expressed by the noble Earl earlier this evening. We will continue to urge China to enter into such a dialogue. My right honourable friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary did so with Chinese leaders last year. Only last month my right honourable friend the Minister of State, Mr. Fatchett, did so again when he visited China, as remarked upon by the noble Lord, Lord Avebury.

Through the human rights dialogues with China to which I referred, we have made clear our many deep concerns about Chinese policy in Tibet. The noble Baroness, Lady Strange, said that those include the re-education of monks and nuns in Tibet under which some are reported to be required to renounce their loyalty to the Dalai Lama and the reported restrictions on the display of the Dalai Lama's picture. China's recent campaign to promote atheism in Tibet gives further cause for concern. We believe that the Chinese should see religion as fulfilling a basic human right, not as some sort of threat.

We are also concerned about the impact of Han Chinese migration into Tibet on its special ethnic, cultural and religious characteristics--a point raised by a number of noble Lords in our debate this evening.

We have raised the individual cases of many Tibetans, including the detention in 1995 of the child Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, who is recognised by the Dalai Lama as the reincarnation of the 11th Panchen Lama. The Government do not hold a view on the child's candidacy as the Panchen Lama, which they believe is a matter for the Tibetans alone to decide. However, he is just a child, and we are very concerned about his welfare. I can assure the noble Viscount, Lord Mersey, that we have repeatedly asked the Chinese to be able to visit him in order to check on his wellbeing. We will continue to raise his case and those of other Tibetans with the Chinese at every opportunity.

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The noble Earl, Lord Carrick, told us of those who have been denied access to Tibet for the purpose of monitoring the human rights situation there. In view of the special nature of the situation in Tibet, a delegation of EU Troika Ambassadors in Beijing made a week-long visit to Tibet in May 1998 in order to assess the situation there. The delegation was led by the British Ambassador, supported by a British Tibetan speaker, which was itself a very important precedent. As a result of that visit, the EU agreed some common guidelines for addressing the issue of Tibet. They are that the EU should urge China to respect human rights in Tibet; that we should encourage China to begin talks with the Dalai Lama; that development assistance for ethnic Tibetans should be targeted in order to help them compete in the economy; and that we should seek to preserve the Tibetan language and culture.

We are also supporting our human rights dialogue with practical co-operation. While in Tibet, the EU Troika Ambassadors visited Pa Nam, the site of a £5.1 million EU rural development project. This will directly benefit indigenous Tibetan people in terms of employment, training and access to land. Britain will contribute about 15 per cent of these costs. The Government are also providing development assistance to Tibet through the Save the Children Fund for projects in the field of education and health.

This year, in view of China's willingness to discuss human rights in a frank and constructive manner and the positive steps taken by China in some areas, EU foreign ministers decided that the EU would not change the position it took at the 1998 United Nations Commission on Human Rights, which meant that the EU did not table or co-sponsor a specific resolution on China at the Commission in Geneva last month. That decision should not be interpreted as in any way reducing our commitment to bring about real improvements in the observance of human rights in China, including Tibet. We made our views on this matter explicit in our national and EU statements in Geneva when we were very critical of China's record, including the situation in Tibet.

We believe that this dialogue-based approach is more likely to bring about positive changes in China than the failed resolutions at the UNHCR.

The noble Lord, Lord Thurlow, and the noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, particularly raised the NATO bombing of the Chinese Embassy, a point also taken up by the noble Baroness, Lady Rawlings. I stated to your Lordship's House earlier this afternoon that, in a letter to the Chinese premier, the Prime Minister has personally expressed his profound shock at the bombing and the loss of life that resulted. My right honourable friend the Foreign Secretary is very anxious to speak to his counterpart, and I have spoken to the Chinese charge today, expressing our shock and dismay at this terrible accident. We deeply regret that the attempt to hit a legitimate military target should have resulted, tragically, in the death of Chinese citizens, and serious damage to the embassy in Belgrade.

We greatly value the improved relationship between Britain and China. We are committed to that relationship and to the continuing strengthening of the ties between

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us. We very much hope that the dialogue which I referred to last Thursday evening in respect of what emerged from the meeting in Bonn of the G8 foreign ministers will go ahead, and my right honourable friend was able to assure members in another place this afternoon that he believed that the German presidency of G8 was still on track for those meetings.

The noble Earl, Lord Sandwich, thought that our trading interests might possibly inhibit our being explicit in our criticisms of some of the human rights aspects of China's relationship with Tibet. I must point out to the noble Earl that human rights remain at the centre of our foreign policy; but, at the same time, we do not believe that business partnerships and human rights are mutually exclusive issues because the opening up of China's economy has brought greater freedom of choice to many people in that country. We want to work with China to consolidate and expand development which will bring about real improvements in the lives of ordinary people. By doing so, we believe that this exposes the Chinese to practices, standards and expectations of individuals and governments from other countries. The increasing importance that China attaches to promoting the rule of law throughout China is, in part, because of the need to enhance trade and investment from other countries. Therefore, we do not see these as mutually exclusive issues, but ones which can reinforce each other.

The noble Earl, Lord Carrick, raised questions about aid. I spoke earlier about the EU project. The DfID presently supports projects for Tibetan communities both inside the area referred to as the "Tibetan autonomous region", and elsewhere. That aid amounts to some £2.2 million.

The noble Lord, Lord Avebury, raised questions about the Drapchi prison protests. The EU Troika Ambassadors did not witness any demonstrations or

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disturbances at the prison during their visit in May of last year. However, strong concerns have been expressed to the Chinese. We are very concerned about the well-being of Ngawang Sangdrol, and others, imprisoned in Tibet. Her name is on a list of individual cases which my right honourable friend the Prime Minister raised with Chinese leaders in October of last year, and on the EU list of individual cases which was presented to the Chinese authorities on 7th May 1999.

I believe that recent developments in China may have been disappointing, but we really did not expect the dialogue to bring significant, short-term political change. The dialogue has produced some results. Indeed, if the noble Baroness wishes me to do so, I can write to her about the results that we believe have been secured. However, dialogue is something which develops as time goes on. While we cannot expect those changes overnight, we believe that there have been significant improvements upon which we will wish to work. We believe that we must work with China to encourage it to meet the international human rights standards that we expect, and we will continue to do so. We will do so privately and publicly, including, where appropriate, at the UN. We will continue to work to achieve progress through constructive dialogue with the authorities in China and through supporting programmes of practical co-operation, such as legal and judicial training. As argued by the noble Lord, Lord Weatherill, in his very impressive and, if I may say so, typically statesman-like intervention, we will continue to urge the Chinese authorities and the Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, to enter into dialogue, without pre-conditions, at the earliest possible opportunity to resolve this outstanding issue.

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