Select Committee on Foreign Affairs Written Evidence


Written evidence 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.

RECOMMENDATION 1

Make a public commitment to promote direct contact between Hu Jintao and the Dalai Lama in the course of all bilateral contacts and multilateral fora involving China

    —  The UK and EU should aim to secure from China an undertaking to drop all pre-conditions to negotiating a settlement on Tibet with representatives of the Dalai Lama, and should promote the inclusion of all areas with Tibetan autonomous status, as designated by China, in any negotiations.

    —  The UK should develop a set of criteria that will allow the EU to evaluate the progress of formal contact between China and the Tibetan Government in exile. The UK should ask by what criteria China assesses the progress of these talks, and how they decide when future meetings will take place.

    —  The UK should encourage the Chinese government to refrain from personal attacks against the Dalai Lama or his attempts to reach a negotiated solution, since these only serve to undermine any advancement that might be made as part of the dialogue process. Whilst the Tibetan Government in exile is placing great emphasis on the dialogue as the best means to achieve a peaceful resolution to the Tibet issue, and exercising great diplomacy in its communication about the dialogue, there has been no reciprocal effort on China's part.

    —  The EU should appoint a Special Representative for Tibetan Affairs to facilitate dialogue in order to resolve the long-standing issue of Tibet.

Background to formal contact between China and the Tibetan Government in exile

  Summary: Formal contact between the exiled Tibetan leader and China re-opened in 2002, following a decade of stalemate. Tibetan envoys and their aides have visited Beijing and Tibetan areas on three occasions since September 2002 and a fourth meeting took place in July this year in Berne, Switzerland. There is, however, little indication so far that Chinese leaders are genuine in wishing to work towards real negotiations; a cynical interpretation is that these visits are a political expediency to silence critics of China's Tibet policy. The meeting between Tony Blair and Hu Jintao during the State Visit is a major opportunity to persuade China to authenticate the talks as a valid process, and a request that Hu Jintao (with his background in Tibet) meets the Dalai Lama, would be the single most effective way of breaking down the distrust of the Dalai Lama's moderate position.

  Although both sides have indicated that the talks are considered constructive and should continue, China's pre-conditions to substantive negotiations still stand. These are:

    (a)    The Dalai Lama must abandon his claim for the independence of Tibet and stop all "splittist" activities. (This he has done for the last decade.)

    (b)    The Dalai Lama must openly recognise Tibet as an inalienable part of China.

    (c)    The Dalai Lama must recognise Taiwan as one of China's provinces.

    (d)    The Dalai Lama must recognise the government of the People's Republic of China as the country's sole legitimate representative.

Background to proposal for Special Representative for Tibetan Affairs

  The Dalai Lama has repeatedly called on the EU to appoint an EUSR for Tibet, following the move by the US Administration to appoint a Tibet Special Co-ordinator in 1997. An EUSR for Tibet would add another dimension to dialogue between the EU and China outside the already existing human rights mechanisms. The appointment of an EUSR for Tibet would demonstrate the EU's interest in the political dimension of the Tibet problem and would be a practical way to help implement EU policy objectives.

  Note: There was an attempt to achieve consensus over the appointment of an EU Special Co-ordinator for Tibet during 2002. The UK appeared to be supportive, but the initiative appears to have been blocked by EU Ambassadors in Beijing. It is time for the matter to be discussed again. In the meantime the EU should mandate Javier Solana's Personal Representative for Human Rights, Michael Matthiessen, to dedicate a significant proportion of his time to promoting dialogue between Tibet and China.

RECOMMENDATION 2

Adopt a Priority Initiative to eradicate Torture in Tibet

  (Note: Chinese officials have said that torture would be at the top of the Procuratorate's list of priorities for 2006.)

    —  The UK should extract clear commitments from China concerning their proposals to address torture. Specifically to consistently outlaw the use of torture to extract "confessions" from detainees.

    —  China to properly implement the Convention against Torture, which it ratified in 1988, and withdraw its reservations to the Convention (in which it does not recognise the competence of the Committee against Torture, as provided for in Article 20).

    —  The UK to secure from China an agreement to sign and ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture (CAT) which allows unannounced visits to prisons and other institutions of concern. In the interim, for China to allow all UN Special Representatives and Working Groups unhindered access to Tibet to investigate human rights concerns. China should guarantee that a visit by Manfred Nowak, UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, will take place this year (the visit was cancelled in 2004 but is thought to be planned for November 2005.)

Additionally

    —  Reforms that China should carry out include:

—  Ensuring that all detainees are granted immediate access to lawyers, family, friends and medical personnel within 24 hours of arrest.

—  Introducing a training programme for police and prison personnel in Tibet, in order to eradicate the use of torture and ill-treatment.

—  Institute a system for prisoners to report incidences of torture, and a procedure for investigating and prosecuting those who commit acts of torture.

Background to Torture in Tibet

  Despite China being a signatory to the Convention Against Torture, torture remains endemic in prisons and detention centres throughout China and Tibet. In January 2005 a suspended death sentence against Tibetan religious leader Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche was commuted to life imprisonment. The case against Tenzin Deleg, who was accused of "splittist activities" and taking part in "causing explosions", has never been made public, but was based on a "confession" by his co-accused, Lobsang Dhondup. Dhondup publicly withdrew this confession, alleging he had been tortured. Dhondup was executed in January 2003.

  Successive United Nations Special Rapporteurs on Torture have made considerable efforts to visit China and Tibet, but China refused to agree to the terms of such a visit until 2004. China then asked that the visit be postponed. It will finally take place later this month (November 2005).

RECOMMENDATION 3

Reinvigorate efforts to gain access to the 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet, who has been in "protective" custody for ten years

Background to the case of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima

  The 11th Panchen Lama of Tibet is a 16 year-old boy, called Gedhun Choekyi Nyima. He and his family were abducted on 17 May 1995, two days after the Dalai Lama officially recognised him as the reincarnation of the much-loved 10th Panchen Lama, who had died in 1989. Despite repeated requests by national governments and the United Nations, no foreigner has been permitted to visit Gedhun Choekyi Nyima or his parents, to establish their well-being. China maintains that that family remain in custody at their own request.

  In September 2005 China must report to the United Nations Committee for the Rights of the Child, and will be expected to respond to concerns raised about the Panchen Lama.

RECOMMENDATION 4

Timelines must be introduced against the benchmarks for the EU/China Human Rights Dialogue

    —  Objectives for the Dialogue should be publicly linked to a timeframe for compliance by China. The objectives should be specific and should relate to action by China, rather than merely agreements to talk about an issue, provide information or accept visits from partners. Additionally:

—  Dialogue should be conducted by high-level officials on both sides and include Ministerial exchanges. The UK should support the creation of a permanent secretariat in the EU to oversee the dialogue and ensure better continuity.

—  Evaluation of the UK/China Human Rights Dialogue should be undertaken by Parliament. Regular evaluations should incorporate submissions by NGOs. 2007 will be the tenth anniversary of the UK's own dialogues with China, and this important yardstick offers an opportunity for a substantive review. However, no sensible review is possible unless there are timeframes of against the UK's benchmarks (see above).

—  Specific criteria should be articulated for the circumstances under which dialogue would be suspended or terminated. The continuation of dialogue at any cost should be abandoned as an operating principle.

—  Dialogue sessions should include independent social groups, experts, scholars, lawyers and other individuals. NGOs should be self-selecting and be guaranteed the right of free expression. Dialogue partners should try to encourage the Chinese government to engage in dialogue domestically, rather than only internationally.

—  The dialogue should strengthen the authority of UN human rights standards and mechanisms rather than undermining them. (The EU—including UK—erroneously still appears to regard the dialogue as being incompatible with critical resolutions at the Commission for Human Rights.)

RECOMMENDATION 5

  Tony Blair, members of his government must raise with Hu Jintao Chinese leaders regularly the need to take urgent steps towards freedom of the media, which has yet to improve despite the promises made in 2001 by the Beijing 2008 Olympic bid Committee. The UK Government should further commit to a special initiative, in tandem to its planned cultural exchanges, that will secure a negotiated settlement for Tibet and improve human rights in China before the Beijing Games of 2008.

RECOMMENDATION 6

  FCO must make efforts to introduce strong human rights elements in trade and business relations with China. In particular, Trade Ministers and business leaders must ensure that all future business deals with China adhere to an agreed code of corporate principles, including protecting individuals who are exercising freedom of speech in China. In April Chinese journalist Shi Tao was sentenced to 10 years in prison after Yahoo! in Hong Kong provided China with information about his use of a private email account to send details abroad about an internal government memo concerning the 15th anniversary of the Tiananmen Square massacre.

Alison Reynolds

Director

Free Tibet Campaign

7 November 2005





 
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Prepared 23 February 2006