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[8 December 2011] A letter from UK MPs has been published in the Guardian newspaper (and online) refuting allegations and propaganda made by a Chinese Embassy spokesman over the self-immolations.

The Chinese official claimed, in a letter published on 26 November, that not only did the self-immolations violate Buddhism but that local people and the religious community disapproved. He also suggested the acts were part of a "separatist agenda under religious cover" and that Tibetans have "legal channels to make their voices heard".

Five British MPs and one Lord have responded by saying the immolations were "a terrible indictment of China's Tibet policy" and that the Chinese leadership should "listen, instead of risking the further escalation of tensions" and engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

Both letters are printed in full below. The parliamentarians' response comes on the day of a debate in the House of Commons on Tibet - the first since April 2008. (Read report on debate.)

Call to end continuing injustice in Tibet
Guardian, 7 December 2011

Dai Qingli's letter (Tibetan deaths violate Buddhism, 25 November) revealed not only a woeful lack of comprehension of the crisis in Tibet but also the Chinese Communist party's failure to gain any measure of legitimacy among the Tibetan people after more than 60 years. Since February 2009, 11 Tibetan monks or former monks and two nuns in Tibet have set fire to themselves in a new and disturbing development driven by agonising oppression. It is a terrible indictment of China's Tibet policy.

We do not know the last words of nun Palden Choetso, who left her nunnery on 3 November, doused herself in kerosene, and set fire to herself. But we are told that among them were prayers for the long life of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The sense of separation from the Tibetan exiled leader has never been so acute among Tibetans in Tibet, and just as the Chinese authorities refuse to give any hope that he will return, so the dangerous cycle of despair is perpetuated. The self-immolations follow a systematic assault against the religious practices and beliefs at the core of Tibetan identity to the extent that many people cannot see how to go on living, as one Tibetan said.

Contrary to Dai Qingli's claims, the Dalai Lama and other religious leaders in exile want these deaths to stop and Tibetans to be able to practise their religion and protect their cultural identity. Dai Qingli is wrong, too, on his paranoid assertions of a separatist agenda of the Dalai Lama; the exiled religious leader is urging the Chinese government to implement its own laws granting Tibetans a genuine autonomy within the People's Republic of China. It is in the interests of the Chinese leadership to listen, instead of risking the further escalation of tensions, and to engage in dialogue with this most-respected and reasonable figure, the Dalai Lama.

To that end, we are optimistic of robust cross-party support in a full House of Commons debate on Tibet today (7 December), with a view to seeking a peaceful way forward as a matter of urgency.

Nic Dakin MP
Fabian Hamilton MP
Martin Horwood MP
Simon Hughes MP
Cathy Jamieson MP
David Steel, House of Lords

Tibetan deaths violate Buddhism
Guardian, 26 November 2011

The self-immolations of Tibetan monks and nuns were truly tragic. They were also a fatal violation of the spirit of peace and tolerance that defines Tibetan Buddhism. And, as such, these acts have met anger and disapproval from the local people and the religious community. People in Tibet have legal channels to make their voices heard. Such extreme acts cannot be justified. It is highly likely that some have fallen victim to the control of an abnormal force.

Pro-independence Tibetans outside China were quick to publicise the self-immolations, sometimes within a few minutes of their occurrence. And there have never been any calls from the Dalai Lama to end such extreme actions. Instead, some among the Dalai Lama followers even publicly sang praises of such acts and agitated for more to follow. Have these young lives become pawns of a separatist agenda? Since reform and opening-up in 1978, China has done much to protect religious freedom and the cultural heritage in Tibet. Now, Tibet has 1,700-plus religious sites and 46,000 monks and nuns, accounting for 1.6% of the total local population. Tibetans, like all other ethnic groups, enjoy freedom of religious belief and expression, while life expectancy has jumped to 67 from 35 years in the Dalai Lama's time.

Like most countries, China believes in the separation of church and state. Religion should have no role in administrative or judicial matters. Under Chinese law, no individual or organisations are permitted to harm lives, break social order or threaten national unity. The time has come for lies to be exposed. The brutal damage to lives must be stopped. We hope people will see through the plot and not be misled by a separatist agenda under religious cover.

Dai Qingli
Chinese Embassy

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