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Tibet Society talks directly to UK Foreign Secretary PDF Print E-mail
[10 April 2014] At the launch of the UK Foreign Office's annual Human Rights Report, two Tibet activists had an unexpected opportunity to speak directly with Foreign Secretary William Hague. Paul Golding from Tibet Society and Padma Dolma from Students for a Free Tibet UK highlighted key issues on Tibet during a four-minute conversation with Mr Hague, who took a keen interest and noted the concerns.

Padma & Paul at FCOMr Golding and Ms Dolma took the opportunity to speak with the Foreign Secretary at the end of the official launch of the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's annual Human Rights and Democracy Report for 2013, held on 10 April at the Foreign Office in London. The launch was attended by a variety of diplomats, government officials, civil servants and representatives of human rights NGOs. Mr Hague remained for 10 minutes after the official launch to talk to dignitaries. When the two campaigners approached, Mr Hague was keen to hear their points.

During the conversation, Mr Golding asked for stronger public statements from the UK government condemning the human rights abuses in Tibet. Ms Dolma noted that such statements not only were important for Tibetans inside Tibet but also for NGOs working on the issue as it provided additional leverage when dealing with other agencies and institutions. Though Mr Hague made no verbal agreement to do so, he nodded in acknowledgement.

Mr Golding asked for greater multilateral coordination on the issue of Tibet between the UK and other concerned countries, noting that China's preference was to talk to countries on an individual basis where it could exert more influence and disregard criticisms. Mr Hague said he understood this and was always looking at ways to engage multilaterally.

The case of Dolma Kyab was also raised, with Ms Dolma thanking Mr Hague for his statement in September 2013 calling for Dolma Kyab's death sentence to be commuted. Ms Dolma asked for a follow-up statement given that Dolma Kyab remains under sentence of death. Again, Mr Hague gave no commitment but noted the case.

Padma & Paul at FCOMs Dolma also discussed the issues surrounding plans by Intercontinental to build a hotel in Lhasa. Ms Dolma noted the company had not responded to concerns when asked and that as Intercontinental is a UK company it seemed to be at odds with the government's new Action Plan on Business and Human Rights. Mr Hague said he could not comment on the case at the moment but it was a good point to raise.

Overall, Mr Hague seemed genuinely interested to talk to the two Tibet campaigners, one of whom is Tibetan. He gave more time than was necessary, as he could have easily made an excuse to leave, listened carefully, often nodded in agreement and seemed to note the concerns. Though he made no particular commitments, the message of Tibet's current plight and a call for action from the UK government was delivered directly to the Foreign Secretary.

Following the four-minute conversation with Mr Hague, the two campaigners spoke to Robert Fenn, Head of the Foreign Office's Human Rights and Democracy Department. A longer conversation was had with Mr Fenn, with some of the points raised with Mr Hague discussed in more detail. In addition, Mr Golding noted that the Action Plan on Business and Human Rights was currently failing to deliver relevant information on human rights in Tibet. Mr Fenn said that as a relatively new plan "flesh still needed to be added to the bones". He added that he welcomed contributions and suggestions to improve the Plan. Mr Fenn also agreed, in principle, to a future meeting to discuss these concerns further.

Note: A review of the Foreign Office's Human Rights Report for 2013, particularly those areas relating to Tibet, will be published soon.

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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