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China: Tibet

Volume 483: debated on Tuesday 18 November 2008

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs whether benchmarks have been agreed to assess progress in the Sino-Tibetan dialogue; and if he will make a statement. (235408)

In his written ministerial statement of 29 October 2008, Official Report, column 30WS, my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary made clear our interest in various aspects of the Tibetan issue. These include the need for respect for Tibetan culture, language and religion. We believe that the talks on Tibet offer the opportunity to make progress in all of these areas, as well as on wider issues of human rights, including the right to freedom of peaceful expression. We are disappointed that to date the dialogue has failed to make progress on any of this, and we urge both parties to redouble efforts and engage on the substance of the issues.

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what assessment he has made of the positive outcomes for the Tibetans which have emerged from the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue since 2003. (235571)

The UK has raised human rights issues in Tibet with the Chinese authorities at each round of dialogue. The last round of the dialogue, in January 2008, was accompanied by a field trip to Tibet, where the delegation visited Drapchi prison, a police station and a criminal trial, and raised concerns directly with local officials. We have also raised Tibet repeatedly in political discussions, including when my right hon. Friend the Prime Minister spoke by telephone to Premier Wen on 7 November. We have lobbied on a number of individual cases of concern as part of these various discussions, which we judge may have contributed to early releases and sentence reductions. We continue to support small-scale development projects in Tibet through our embassy in Beijing.