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Tibet raised in Queen's Speech debate PDF Print E-mail
[15 May 2012] In the debate on the Queen's Speech that covered Foreign Affairs and International Development, Fabian Hamilton, Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, contributed with a strong speech on Tibet calling on the UK government to take action.

Fabian Hamilton said, "Our Government needs to stand up and speak louder for the future and self-determination of the Tibetan people before it is too late." and added, "We should not be afraid of the Chinese bullies. I was very pleased that the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister were there yesterday to meet His Holiness at St Pauls Cathedral, and I congratulate them."

Kate Hoey and Ivan Lewis also referred to Tibet later in the debate. Kate Hoey followed up on Fabian Hamilton's comments saying, "Our Government should be speaking out more about this issue. We should be forming alliances with other countries and not allowing China to get away with what it is doing just because it is such a huge and economically powerful country."

Ivan Lewis also reiterated the importance of keeping up pressure on China, saying, "
We should use every opportunity to say to the Chinese that we keep a close eye on human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of faith in Tibet, and that we have serious concerns about the human rights abuses that continue to occur."


The Queen's Speech
Her Majesty The Queen delivered the Speech from the Throne outlining the Government's legislative programme for the parliamentary year ahead on Wednesday 9 May.

Tuesday 15 May: Debate on the Address [4th Day]: Debate resumed (Order, 9 May)
Question again proposed, That an humble Address be presented to Her Majesty, as follows: Most Gracious Sovereign, We, Your Majestys most dutiful and loyal subjects, the Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland in Parliament assembled, beg leave to offer our humble thanks to Your Majesty for the Gracious Speech which Your Majesty has addressed to both Houses of Parliament.

Foreign Affairs and International Development
Fabian Hamilton MP Fabian Hamilton (Leeds North East) (Lab): I thank the hon. Gentleman for that intervention. I hope that I can join his group and work with him for the benefit of Anglo-Moroccan relations, which are important to this country and to the Arab world.

I will concentrate on one major issue that concerns me, which I hope the Government will take up. Indeed, the Government have made their views on it fairly clear, but they need to do more. It is the issue of Tibet.

Yesterday, I was privileged to be invited to St Pauls cathedral to hear the address by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet, Tenzin Gyatso. He was awarded the prestigious Templeton prize, which is awarded for a persons spiritual contribution to humanity. It is now 100 years since the birth of the prizes founder, Sir John Templeton.

St Pauls, as Members will know, is a wonderful venue for any ceremonial. To be there in the presence of so many people, but especially the Dalai Lama, and to hear his magnificent speech about compassion, peace and love for all humanity was very uplifting. It made me realise that the attempts by the Chinese Government to bring the Dalai Lama into disrepute, calling him a splittist and even, on some occasions, a terrorist, are complete and utter nonsense. We know that this is a man who stands up for peace and love for all humanity. How can the Chinese Government, who have such a poor record of human rights violations, accuse somebody like the Dalai Lama of what they accuse him of? I hope that our Government will put further pressure on the Chinese Government to ensure that the human rights violations all over that country, but especially in Tibet, are brought to an end, or at least brought to public notice.

I want to draw attention to the case of one individual. His name is Dhondup Wangchen. He was a renowned filmmaker in Tibet until 2008, when he was arrested for making a film about the effect of the Olympics in Beijing on the people of Tibet. It was a modest film, as anybody who has seen it will know, in which the Tibetan people who were interviewed said, It would be nice if we had a chance to share in the interest and pleasure of watching live sport, especially something as prestigious as the Olympics, but the Government wont let us because we are Tibetan. For that film, Dhondup Wangchen was arrested, supposedly tried and imprisoned for eight years. He is still in prison. He is currently suffering from a hepatitis C infection that is damaging his health, and he is being denied the appropriate health care.

I hope that the Foreign Office and the Foreign Secretary will bring the case of Dhondup Wangchen to the attention of the Chinese Government, as well as the cases of the many other Tibetans who have been arrested simply for supporting the Dalai Lama. It is now a criminal offence in Tibet to put up a portrait of His Holiness. One does not have to do anything but put up a portrait that is then seen. That is why many Tibetans now hide his portrait in a cupboard or somewhere else where it cannot be seen by spies and people who are there on behalf of the Chinese Administration.

We know what the Dalai Lama has written. All that he has ever asked for is true autonomy for Tibet. No longer is the argument put forward that Tibet wants to be a proud, autonomous, independent nation once again. I think that many Tibetans wish that that was the case, but they so revere the Dalai Lama that they would not deny or contradict his middle way approach. That is something that the British Government should support.

In 2006, just six years ago this month, I was privileged to be part of the Foreign Affairs Committee delegation that went to Lhasa. It was a fascinating experience. The visit was brought about by the determination of my colleague on the Committee at the time, the right hon. Member for Tonbridge and Malling (Sir John Stanley). He persisted in arguing that we should be allowed to go, in the face of Foreign Office resistance and, of course, resistance from the Chinese Government. But go we did. There were five of us, the others being my hon. Friend the Member for Birmingham, Edgbaston (Ms Stuart) and two former Members, Andrew Mackinlay and Richard Younger-Ross.

We were accompanied by 10 people from Beijing, if I recall correctly, to ensure that we did not stray off the path that the Chinese Administration had set down for us. None the less, Andrew Mackinlay and I managed to escape our minders one afternoon, after three days in Lhasa, to explore the Barkhor markets and talk to people, although they were scared to talk to foreigners. That gave us a true insight into the way in which the Chinese Government are trying to make the people of Tibet Chinese; the way in which Han Chinese people are being encouraged to move into the new housing that is being built in Lhasa; the way in which the Tibetan language is demoted, even for Tibetan children in the schools in that country; and the way in which nomads are being forced to live in fixed accommodation, no longer able to pursue the lifestyle and culture that they have had for centuries. The culture of Tibetits costume, its cultural festivities, its celebrations and the very faith of Buddhismis being eroded in the name of standardisation and Chinese-ification.

Our Government need to stand up and speak louder for the future and self-determination of the Tibetan people before it is too late. My fear, and that of right hon. and hon. Members who support the Tibetan cause, many of whom were at St Pauls cathedral yesterday, is that in 20 or 50 years time, there will be a Tibetan diaspora but no Tibetan people still living in Tibet. That would be a tragedy.

Yesterday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama acknowledged his debt to the people and Government of India, who welcomed him when he was forced into exile in 1959, where he has been ever since in Dharamsala. Each year, with the support of the Tibet Society, the all-party Tibet group, which I chair, tries to organise a trip to Dharamsala and McLeod Ganj for parliamentarians to meet the brilliantly organised Tibetan Government-in-exile and see their Parliament, their artistic and cultural organisations and their political prisoners organisation, from which we hear the most harrowing tales. Best of all, we see the Tibetan childrens village, where children who have walked across the Himalayas to escape the oppression of the Chinese Government and Communist party, often unaccompanied by their parents, come into India and are welcomed with open arms. They are supported by many western and eastern people, many of whom come from Japan. It is so uplifting to see how those children are looked after.

I do not want to go into the debate that we will continue to have about the rights and wrongs of what is happening between Israel and the Palestinian people, but the director of the Tibetan childrens village went to Israel to see how the kibbutzim were managed and organised. When I was last there, I could not help but think that the village was run along the lines of a kibbutz. It seemed very much like it. I said to the director, This seems strange. Have you been to Israel? He said, Yes we have. We went there to see what a kibbutz was like, and we put their principles into practice here so that our children could benefit from collective living and a co-operative upbringing together. Their parents are often stuck in Lhasa or other towns and villages in Tibet.

Tibet will die if we do not continue to support it. We should not be afraid of the Chinese bullies. I was very pleased that the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister were there yesterday to meet His Holiness at St Pauls cathedral, and I congratulate them. However, I am also aware, as many Members will be if they read this mornings papers, that the Chinese Government expressed in the strongest possible terms their anger at the fact that our Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister had had the temerity to meet the Dalai Lama. We must stand up against this bullying.

When the Foreign Affairs Committee was in Beijing, the Chinese peoples foreign affairs committee threatened us with all sorts of retribution if we visited Taiwan. We were told it would have far-reaching damaging effects on the relationship between the UK and China. We went to Taiwan, and no damaging effect was felt at all. We must stand up to these bully-boy tactics, stand up for Tibet and stand up for the message of peace, love and compassion that His Holiness the Dalai Lama continues to put forth without fear or favour.


Kate Hoey (Vauxhall) (Lab): I was very moved by the speeches of my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford (Dame Joan Ruddock) and particularly of my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton), who I know had another engagement to attend. I, too, was at St Pauls yesterday to hear the Dalai Lama. I am a member of the all-party group on Tibet and I was very disappointed that although the thousands of Chinese students in this country were mentioned in the Governments introduction to the debate, not a word was said about the Chinese Governments human rights record and the appalling way they have treated not only the Tibetans but people in many other parts of China. The difference between what my right hon. Friend the Member for Lewisham, Deptford said about Palestine and the terrible things she saw and what my hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North East said about Tibet is that at least the media can still get access to the refugee camps and Palestine. Yes, that is difficult but they and parliamentary delegations can get in, whereas it is incredibly difficult to get into Tibet these days. It has become a closed country to anyone who is not seen as absolutely supporting the Chinese regime.

Our Government should be speaking out more about this issue. We should be forming alliances with other countries and not allowing China to get away with what it is doing just because it is such a huge and economically powerful country.

When China was selected to host the Olympics, everyone said, Its going to make such a difference. China is going to change. It will change its human rights record and start freeing prisoners. Have we seen any changes in China since the Beijing Olympics? I have seen nothing that has made a difference, and the fact that the Olympics were held there has certainly not made any difference to the brave Tibetans who are trying so desperately not just to have a free Tibet, but to be allowed to practise their culture and their religion. What has been happening there is shocking, and I hope that the Minister will make some reference to that.

Our Government have done some very good things through their foreign policy. I am delighted that they are opening up some of our embassies in parts of the world that were closed. I am pleased that they have made a decision that the UK flag must take precedence over the European Union flag. That is just a tiny little change, but it is very important and I welcome it. I pay tribute to our many ambassadors all over the world who do such a good job, trying to ensure that the United Kingdoms voice is heard in those countries and that we stand up for the values that this country represents.


Mr Ivan Lewis (Bury South) (Lab): My hon. Friend the Member for Leeds North East (Fabian Hamilton) raised the question of Tibet. I was privileged to be the first British Minister to be allowed to visit Tibet in 50 years, when I was a Foreign Office Minister. We should use every opportunity to say to the Chinese that we keep a close eye on human rights, freedom of expression and freedom of faith in Tibet, and that we have serious concerns about the human rights abuses that continue to occur.


Tibet Society, the worlds first Tibet support group, was founded in 1959. Funded by its members, it has been working for over 50 years to seek justice for Tibet through parliamentary lobbying, campaigns and actions. Help keep Tibet alive by joining Tibet Society today. (Annual membership 24; Family 36; Life 500).
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