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How long must we wait?

March 18, 2008

Last autumn, Gordon Brown earned the approval of the British public and the gratitude of the Burmese people by making it clear that our government would not tolerate the violent suppression of peaceful protests in Burma. On October 29 2007 he stated: “We will continue to ensure that the gaze of the whole world is on this repressive regime.”

The British public, the Tibetan people and the world are awaiting a similarly strong statement condemning the Chinese authorities for their brutal (and now secretive) crackdown on pro-democracy demonstrations in Tibet. How long must we wait?

The British government must be consistent. It cannot pick and choose which repressive regimes it will criticise whilst remaining silent on others – whatever their economic clout might be. Foreign tourists are being rounded up, British journalists detained or denied access to Tibetan regions. What is happening in Lhasa – and throughout historic Tibet – must not be hidden from the world’s view.

For too long, the UK government has hidden behind China’s bad faith negotiations with the Tibetan government-in-exile. Yesterday morning on the BBC’s Good Morning Scotland, a former Foreign Office staffer from the Beijing embassy admitted these “negotiations” are a smokescreen set up by the Chinese government, who offer no substantive issues for discussion, while sitting back and waiting for the Dalai Lama to die. The UK government must acknowledge that its position is (as it has always been) a betrayal of the Tibetan people.

The UK must immediately and publicly demand that the Chinese government allow the western media and independent observers into Lhasa and other Tibetan towns. UK embassy representatives should be monitoring the situation on behalf of the British people. Gordon Brown must also make it clear to the Chinese government (as the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, did last year) that human rights cannot be ignored in favour of trade. The leaders of both opposition parties have already announced that they will meet the Dalai Lama when he visits the UK in May. As our latest front cover’s photomontage suggests (see left), it’s about time Brown did the same. How can our prime minister shame the British public by doing any less?

The UK government’s silence only emboldens the Chinese government to believe it can trample the basic human rights of Tibetans with impunity. And silence sends a tragic message to these brave protesters that the British government is prepared to turn a blind eye.

Anne Holmes is the acting director of Free Tibet.

From → Free Tibet

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