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Norman Baker: The Minister is making a very constructive speech, whose value the whole House will recognise. May I return him to the point that I made about the pieces of paper that the Chinese sign? We often take them as evidence of progress when we are considering international relations, but as I have said, I believe that they are tactics rather than demonstrating any significant advance. What steps does the Minister feel he can take to secure independent assessment of what the Chinese are actually doing, rather than reliance on what they tell us they are doing?
Ian Pearson: I do not want to doubt the genuineness of the Chinese authorities when they sign agreements. It is important, however, for us to hold them to their commitments, and we try to do that through the human rights dialogue. We try to obtain information on what is happening in regard to human rights in Tibet, and indeed in China, from a number of sources. When concerns are expressed and there is evidence to substantiate them, we seek opportunities to raise them with the Chinese authorities, just as we would want to raise concerns about human rights abuses wherever we find them in the world. If there is one thing that can be said about the UK Government, it is that we are very consistent in raising human rights issues and human rights abuses wherever they may be found.
Harry Cohen: I agree that the Minister is making a very constructive speech, and I wish him well in China next week. Will he re-emphasise the point about going into negotiations without conditions? Some of the conditions are meaningless in the context of a proper discussion.
Ian Pearson: I am happy to confirm that we want to do exactly that. We want to see a dialogue take place between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities. I assure the House that the UK Government will continue to do what they can to encourage positive change in Tibet and in China. The Department for International Development is engaged in water and sanitation and education projects in Tibet, and the Foreign and Commonwealth Office will continue to engage in issues of concern through our embassy