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Volume 487: debated on Monday 26 January 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs what progress his Department has made against its policy objectives regarding Tibet since 1 January 2008; what specific outcomes have resulted from steps taken by his Department; and if he will make a statement. (243955)

[holding answer 15 December 2008]: Working to improve human rights in Tibet has been a consistent Government policy priority during the course of 2008. We raised Tibet at our UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in January, where a broad discussion took place on minority rights and the role of the police, and also visited Tibet as part of that dialogue. There have also been several ministerial interventions on this issue, including statements by my right hon. Friends the Prime Minister and the Foreign Secretary, my noble Friend Lord Malloch-Brown and myself.

We have consistently pressed the Chinese Government to engage in open and substantive dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama. We believe that the clear expression of support for dialogue from the international community, including the UK, was helpful in encouraging the dialogue to continue. Equally, we are disappointed that the process has so far failed to achieve results, and appears to have reached an impasse. I issued a statement on 24 November calling on both sides to resume discussions without delay, focused initially on identifying points of agreement within the proposals already put forward by the Tibetan side.

We have also continued to express our concern, to the Chinese and publicly, over those who remain in detention, the increased constraints on religious activity, and the restrictions on access to Tibetan areas for foreigners. We have also continued to raise individual cases in conjunction with our EU partners.

We will continue to work in support of human rights in Tibet, in accordance with the written ministerial statement that my right hon. Friend the Foreign Secretary issued on 29 October 2008, Official Report, columns 30-31WS.