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Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 52(1)(a) (Money resolutions and ways and means resolutions in connection with bills),

Question agreed to.


Motion made, and Question put forthwith, pursuant to Standing Order No. 118(6) (Standing Committees on Delegated Legislation),

Northern Ireland

That the draft Firearms (Amendment) (Northern Ireland) Order 2005, which was laid before this House on 21st February, in the last Session of Parliament, be approved.—[Mr. Heppell.]

Question agreed to.



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GP Practices

10.47 pm

Andrew Selous (South-West Bedfordshire) (Con): I present a petition signed by more than 700 of my constituents who wish to support small and single-handed GP practices in their locality and object to the Government's one-size-fits-all policy on GP practices. The petition is heartfelt, as is evidenced by the comments of many of the petitioners.

The petition states:

To lie upon the Table.
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Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Heppell.]

10.49 pm

Norman Baker (Lewes) (LD): I am pleased to have the opportunity to raise the subject of Tibet. I hope that this is a topical and timely Adjournment debate, given that the Prime Minister is meeting Hu Jintao in July at Gleneagles. There will also be an EU-China summit later this year. As the UK will hold the EU presidency, it will oversee the EU-China human rights dialogue that is expected to take place in October. There is thus an opportunity for the UK to make a considerable impact on the situation in Tibet and especially the human rights situation there, which is of primary concern to me. For the record, it is worth noting that Tibet is not part of China, although the Chinese like to pretend that it is. It is doubtful whether it was ever part of China, and in 1904 Tibet signed an independent agreement—the Lhasa convention—with Britain without China's involvement. China objected, and Britain replied:

In 1904, Britain therefore recognised Tibet as an independent country. The Chinese revolution took place in 1911, and there was no Chinese involvement at all between then and 1950. Tibet had its own postage stamps, currency and foreign policy—all the hallmarks of an independent country that was recognised by the British Government, who said in 1942:

If only that were true. Since then, things have gone downhill, and the Chinese invasion finally led to the Dalai Lama fleeing Lhasa in 1959. UN resolutions followed in 1959, 1961 and 1965, calling for

The UN took a great interest in Tibet, but it did not lead to the enforcement of UN resolutions—that has happened in other countries more recently—as the international community did not think it appropriate.

I was grateful for the response that I received from the late and effective Minister, Derek Fatchett, to another Adjournment debate that I secured on Tibet in 1999. He acknowledged that the British Government have never accepted Chinese sovereignty over Tibet, which is a very important point. He said that successive British Governments

That is ambiguous, but it is helpful, as it does not say that Tibet is part of China. It is important that we maintain that position, and I urge the Minister for Trade to confirm that the British Government have not changed it in the six years since I last secured an Adjournment debate on this topic.

Anyone who goes to Tibet will immediately realise that it is an occupied country, where Tibetans are treated as second-class by the Han Chinese, who are increasingly moving there with incentives from the Chinese Government. Travellers can attest that even
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nomads in the most isolated parts of Tibet are cautious about being photographed with westerners for fear of harassment by the Chinese authorities. Every morning in Lhasa, one can hear the People's Liberation Army singing "The East is Red". Anyone who visits Lhasa will know which homes are Han Chinese and which are Tibetan from the quality of the buildings. Apartheid, thank goodness, has been dispatched in South Africa. We all rejoice at that, but it is still very much present in Tibet, where Tibetans are second-class citizens in comparison with the Chinese who invaded the country and set themselves up as its rulers.

The Minister will know the history of Tibet since 1950. A total of 1.2 million Tibetans have died as a consequence of the Chinese occupation. Torture takes place regularly, political prisoners are held, and extrajudicial executions are still commonplace in that sad country. The International Commission of Jurists concluded in its reports of 1959 and 1960 that there was a prima facie case of genocide committed by the Chinese on the Tibetan nation. It is a strong word, but I use it advisedly, as my assessment is that there is an attempt to exterminate the culture of that country and make the Tibetans a minority, so that there will be no going back on the Chinese occupation. It is a terrible situation, but that is what is happening slowly and incrementally, and it is getting worse.

More than 3,000 people are believed to have been detained for political offences since September 1987, many of them for simple activities such as writing letters, distributing leaflets or talking to foreigners about Tibet. The things that we take for granted in Britain are a cause of arrest, long-term imprisonment, torture and even death. So there is a regular stream of people attempting to escape from Tibet into Nepal, despite the fact that the journey is a dangerous one over the Himalayas and many die on the journey. They risk hypothermia, snow blindness, frostbite and the possibility of falling, but they still make the journey. It is very sad that Nepal has colluded with the Chinese Government to return some of those who make it into Nepal. I understand that the position in Nepal is not particularly stable, but have the British Government taken the matter up with the Nepalese authorities?

What has taken place in Tibet is not a standard invasion and occupation of a country. It is more insidious than that. There is an attempt to eliminate the whole culture of Tibet. There are "patriotic re-education" classes for monks and nuns, who are forced to denounce the Dalai Lama and to denounce their religion if they want to carry on living and be free of tyranny. Religious practice was suppressed until 1979 and 6,000 monasteries and shrines have been destroyed and violated. Now the head of every monastery, like all monks, is appointed by the religious affairs bureau, a state-run Chinese body. Every major monastery is overseen by a so-called democratic management committee, which is the highest authority in the monastery and supervises its activities. The Chinese authorities appoint all candidates for that committee, who are then "elected" by the monks.

There is a two-tier system in education as well. Secondary education in Tibet is solely in Chinese, except for learning the Tibetan language. In order to learn English, which is essential for most university courses, students must forgo study of their own language. Up to
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4,000 Tibetan children are sent to China for secondary education, which often means seven years away from their own culture and language.

The slightest display of national sentiment among schoolchildren leads to severe penalties. Six pupils from No. 1 middle school in Lhasa were arrested in 1989 for making a copy of the Tibetan national flag. In 1990 another student from the same school was reportedly arrested for giving a Tibetan nationalist flag to a monk. She received a three-year term of re-education through labour and was sent to Gutsa detention centre, which is notorious for the use of torture. Officials have called for the fresh introduction of socialist education in schools all over Tibet.

The situation is exacerbated by the construction of the Gormo-Lhasa railway. Hitherto some protection has been afforded to Tibet by the sheer fact that it is so far away from Beijing and other major Chinese cities. Now that distance is to be eradicated through the construction of the railway which, along with tax incentives for Chinese settlers in Tibet, the relaxation of the one child policy in Tibet, and the fact that over half the people in Tibet are now admitted by the Chinese to be non-Tibetan, is leading to a point beyond which there is no return. It is extremely important that the world community stands up and defends Tibet before it is too late.

The railway project is expected to be completed by 2006. It is not an economic development project. It is a political project, make no mistake about that. That was admitted by Jiang Zemin, who said:

So we have it in the words of the Chinese themselves. Will the Government raise with the Chinese authorities the question of the railway and its purpose?

I shall mention briefly one or two specific cases, which I hope the Government will raise in their discussions with the Chinese authorities. Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche is a respected Buddhist religious leader. He originally confessed, apparently, to


but withdrew these confessions, saying that they had been made under duress. He had built monasteries, schools and homes for the elderly in his community in eastern Tibet, but his leadership outside the communist party made him a political target. He was sentenced to death and that was confirmed in a retrial. The sentence has subsequently been commuted to life imprisonment, but grave concerns remain about the fairness of the trial, which of course did not conform to international standards. Will the Government press for a full and fair retrial in the presence of international observers?

Perhaps the most obvious case is that of the Panchen Lama. The Minister knows that the Panchen Lama, who has been recognised by the Dalai Lama, has been imprisoned for more than 10 years since he was six, making him the youngest political prisoner in the world. When the boy and his family were taken into custody,
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about 40 monks were arrested for their part in supporting the child's recognition. Beijing has refused to allow independent observers to establish the child's well-being, saying that it is a matter for them and that the child does not want to be involved in any political process, which is an excuse that is wearing very thin. China is due to appear before the UN committee on the rights of the child—will the Government undertake to press China to allow them access to the Panchen Lama and his family?

The arms embargo, which was imposed in 1989 in response to the massacre in Tiananmen square, relates to human rights in both China and Tibet. Fourteen people are still imprisoned by the Chinese for their role in the Tiananmen square protests, and there is no evidence that human rights have substantially improved since 1989. It is welcome that the Government are pushing for a tougher code of conduct on arms sales, but ending the embargo will send precisely the wrong signal to Beijing, and we must make it clear that we condemn the Chinese record on human rights. Will the Government reconsider their support for lifting the arms embargo and push for the new code of conduct to be legally binding on all EU member states?

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