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China calls off human rights dialogue with UK PDF Print E-mail
[10 April 2014] Tibet Society has learned that the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue, due to take place on 14-15 April, has been cancelled. Sources say that the Chinese government unilaterally called the meeting off due to disagreements with the UK.

China-UK flagThe Chinese government is understood to have cancelled the Dialogue for two reasons: firstly, in retaliation to the UK's intervention at the recent UN Human Rights Council session which adopted China's Universal Periodic Review; and secondly, as China did not agree to the Dialogue's agenda which was due to include issues such as freedom of expression and ethnic minority rights.

The UK's intervention at the UN related to an NGO that called for a minute's silence during the session, in memory of Chinese human rights defender Cao Shunli who died on 14 March whilst in custody. NGOs are allowed to give short statements during the UPR adoption process. China objected to the minute's silence, which the UK and other countries then supported.

British officials are understood to be seeking a new date for the Dialogue. Given David Cameron and Xi Jinping agreed to the resumption of the process in December 2013, following a two-year hiatus, it is hoped a new date will be found in the near future.

Tibet Society applauds the UK government for standing firm on its human rights principles, encourages the government to not back down in the face of any bullying from the Chinese government, and asks it continues to insist upon a Dialogue which includes constructive criticism on human rights.

Foreign Office fails to respond to specific concerns
Prior to the cancellation of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue, the Foreign Office responded to Tibet Society's
action calling on the government to raise Tibet during the Dialogue. Though the Foreign Office stated it would continue to raise Tibet at appropriate opportunities it failed to acknowledge the specific requests made in the action.

The generic letter, sent from the China Department of the Foreign Office, made no mention of the political prisoner cases specified in the action, which included Thardoe Gyalsten who was recently jailed for 18 years simply for possessing photos and speeches of the Dalai Lama. The letter also neglected to respond to the call to press China for a date for the visit to Tibet and China by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

The response, however, did say, "British Ministers are robust in their defence of human rights, and will continue to discuss [Tibet] issues with their Chinese counterparts as part of our ongoing engagement." It also reiterated the UK policy calling for meaningful dialogue which the UK government believes is "the best way to address and resolve the underlying grievances of the Tibetan communities and we continue to urge all sides to restart talks".

No further action is required at this time. If and when a new date for the Dialogue is agreed an updated action will be considered.

Further reading:
Tibet Society action on UK-China Human Rights Dialogue (3 April)
Human Rights Watch statement on China UPR & Cao Shunli (20 March)


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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