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Human Rights (China)

Volume 470: debated on Tuesday 8 January 2008

4. What steps he is taking to encourage the Chinese government to adhere to pledges it has made in respect of human rights and press freedom, with particular reference to occupied Tibet. (175894)

We encourage the Chinese Government to fulfil their human rights obligations across China, including in Tibet. My right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary raised the issue of human rights with the Chinese Foreign Minister in December. My right hon. Friend the Minister for the Olympics and for London raised the issue of media freedom in November. We will raise our concerns on Tibet at the next round of the UK-China human rights dialogue in Beijing later this month.

The Chinese have promised media freedom for foreign journalists in China, but have restricted it even more in occupied Tibet. They promised to give the Red Cross access to prisons in China, but exempted Tibet. They promised religious freedom, but effectively have martial law in monasteries. Is not the reality that the Chinese sign lots of bits of paper about Tibet, but do absolutely nothing about it?

We take seriously the range of human rights issues that the hon. Gentleman raised. I know that he has a long record in relation to Tibet and has rightly highlighted the matter on many occasions. We pursue human rights in three ways—through high-level lobbying, through UK-China and EU-China dialogues, and through project work on the ground, including on issues such as the judiciary, torture, the death penalty and minority rights.

It is heartening that China has made pledges to uphold human rights. However, it is difficult to equate such pledges with China’s continuing offer of no-strings aid, which has emboldened some unsavoury Governments and allowed them to ignore calls for reform. Can the Minister assure the House that the Government will continue to do all in their power to encourage China to conditionalise the aid that it gives to some of the most despotic regimes in the world, such as the regime in Sudan?

My hon. Friend raises an important point. Our engagement with China always focuses on human rights issues. The Prime Minister is to visit shortly and will continue our dialogue and continue to press on these matters.

What is the difference between the Chinese Government’s respect for human rights in Tibet and the Serbian Government’s respect for human rights in Kosovo that justifies a very different policy by Her Majesty’s Government?

We take seriously the issues in Tibet and we raise these matters continually at the regular dialogues. This will be the 16th round of dialogues between the UK and China on Tibet, and on this occasion the delegations will make a visit to Tibet to study the situation on the ground.