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Call on UK government to end its policy of "not supporting Tibetan independence" PDF Print E-mail
[19 March 2015] The UK government's annual Human Rights and Democracy report was released on 12 March. The section on Tibet begins with the UK's policy on Tibet, recognising Tibet as part of the People's Republic of China, and includes the statement that the UK government "does not support Tibetan independence". Not only is the policy irrelevant to the human rights report, the additional statement is contrary to Tibetans' rights of freedom of self-determination and expression.

Take action by calling on the UK government to drop its statement of "not supporting Tibetan independence" and instead advocate Tibetan rights to self-determination and freedom of expression.

Take ActionBackgroundTibet section from FCO report

Take Action
Leave a comment online and write to the Foreign Minister. Call on the UK government to:

Stop stating it "does not support Tibetan independence". Note that it is not necessary to state such a policy in the human rights report, and is also contradictory to their stated goal of China ratifying the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, in which the first article states "All peoples have the right of self-determination."

Advocate Tibetan human rights by stating the UK "supports Tibetans right to self-determination and their right to freedom of expression."

Expand the Tibet section in its annual human rights report, including highlighting more political prisoner cases and referencing external reports on Tibet such as Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2014. Tibet issues should also be referenced in other sections. For example, control of Buddhism under "Freedom of Religion" and the ban on community-run Tibetan language classes under "Civil Society".

1. Leave a comment online on the FCO's Human Rights and Democracy 2014-15 report page:

2. Write to
Philip Hammond, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs:
Salutation: Mr Hammond
This e-mail address is being protected from spam bots, you need JavaScript enabled to view it
Address: Foreign and Commonwealth Office, King Charles Street, London SW1A 2AH

If you receive a reply to your email or letter, please send a copy to Tibet Society, as this helps us to monitor the situation. Click here for Tibet Society contact details.

Cover of FCO reportOn 15 March 2015, the UK Foreign & Commonwealth Office issued its annual "Human Rights and Democracy" report for 2014. China remains a "country of concern" with Tibet appearing as a section under China.

The Tibet section (pg 122) summarises the human rights situation in Tibetan regions during 2014 and the occasions on which the UK government have raised concerns with their Chinese counterparts. Though the continued concern is welcome there is still much the UK government can do, including within the annual report itself.

UK policy on Tibet
Of particular concern, is the start of the Tibet section which states the UK government's policy on Tibet:

"The UKs policy on Tibet remains unchanged. The UK recognises Tibet as part of the Peoples Republic of China and does not support Tibetan independence." (page 122, Human Rights and Democracy: The 2014 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report)

Why does the policy have to appear in the human rights report at all, let alone at the beginning of the Tibet section? It would seem that the UK government is almost apologising to China for mentioning Tibet. The policy first appeared in the annual report last year, near the end of the Tibet section. This year it has moved to a more prominent position. Will it lead the China section next year?

The UK's policy of recognising Tibet as part of the People's Republic of China does not belong in the human rights report. No other such policy is stated in the report, adding credence to the theory that it is only being stated to appease China.

In addition, there is no need for the UK government to state it "does not support Tibetan independence". This additional statement has recently crept into the UK policy on Tibet. It was first stated by Prime Minister David Cameron during the debate following the Queens Speech in 2013:

"The Chinese Government are aware of our policy on Tibet. We recognise Tibet as part of China. We do not support Tibetan independence, and we respect Chinas sovereignty." (David Cameron, 8 May 2013)

The statement serves no purpose other than to appease the Chinese government. At the time, China had frozen diplomatic relations with the UK, following Cameron's meeting with the Dalai Lama in May 2012.

In fact, the statement can only harm the right to freedom of expression of Tibetans, as the Chinese authorities can hold up this statement as support for their policies of punishing Tibetans who dare to speak out against China's rule.

It also contradicts another UK policy (as referred to on page 120) of encouraging China to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 1 of the ICCPR states,

"All peoples have the right of self-determination. By virtue of that right they freely determine their political status and freely pursue their economic, social and cultural development."

The UK government should therefore be stating it supports the right of the Tibetan people to self-determination. It should not undermine this right by stating it does not support independence.

Expansion of Tibet section
The FCO's human rights report should also expand the Tibet section to highlight the severity of the situation.

Only one Tibetan was named in the report as having being sentenced in 2014 (Lobsang Gendun). Though reference is made to "ongoing reports of the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of Tibetan lay people and monks" for expressing their views, the report fails to specify any other cases.

Also, only one Tibetan case of a death due to ill-treatment in custody was highlighted (Goshul Lobsang in "Human Rights Defenders" section, pg 121). In 2014, at least 10 Tibetans either died in custody or shortly after being released from prison.

Tibet should also feature in other sections of the report, and not solely under its own heading. For example, China's control over Tibetan Buddhism and heavy restrictions on monasteries should appear in the "Freedom of Religion or Belief" section. China's crackdown on expression of Tibetan culture, for example the banning of community-run Tibetan language classes, should appear under the "Civil Society" section.

To highlight the severity of the situation, the FCO could reference Freedom House's ranking on civil and political rights in Tibet. (Tibet is ranked Worst of the Worst alongside North Korea, Syria and Saudi Arabia). Freedom House's Freedom in the World 2014 report is referenced elsewhere in the report (pages 31 & 185) as is Freedom House's "Freedom of the Media" report (pages 16, 41, 151 & more), and Reporters Without Borders's "World Press Freedom Index" (pages 38, 42, 128 & more).

Tibet section from FCO's annual human rights report

Human Rights and Democracy: The 2014 Foreign & Commonwealth Office Report
(published 15 March 2015)

(page 122)

The UKs policy on Tibet remains unchanged. The UK recognises Tibet as part of the Peoples Republic of China and does not support Tibetan independence. During 2014, we continued to call for all parties to engage in substantive dialogue. We pressed the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint, respect religious and cultural freedoms, and allow unrestricted access to Tibetan areas for international journalists, NGOs and diplomats. Foreign & Commonwealth Office Minister for Asia, Hugo Swire participated in a parliamentary debate on Tibet in December and re-stated the UKs position. The UK raised concerns about ethnic minority rights at the HRC, and during the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue.

The Chinese authorities continued to restrict access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) for foreigners. A UK diplomat was, however, granted permission to visit the TAR on an escorted visit in June the first in three years. British officials also visited Tibetan areas in neighbouring provinces. Security in the TAR is substantial and entrenched. A propaganda campaign against the Dalai Lama continued.

Episodes of unrest continued in 2014. Local authorities reportedly used lethal force to disperse protestors in Kardze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan, in August. Reports suggest that five Tibetans died.

There were at least 10 reported self-immolations in Tibetan regions in 2014; all were fatal. There were further reports of the criminal detention and conviction of Tibetans in relation to self-immolations.

There were ongoing reports of the arbitrary detention and imprisonment of Tibetan lay people and monks in relation to restrictions on their freedom of expression, association and assembly. Reports suggested a number of singers and songwriters were detained for peaceful expression of their views. In September, monk Lobsang Gendun was sentenced to 10 years imprisonment after publicly calling for the return of the Dalai Lama in 2013. Tibetan filmmaker, Dhondup Wangchen, was released from prison in June after serving a six-year sentence.

For the fourth year in succession, there were no talks between the Chinese authorities and representatives of the Dalai Lama, extending the longest hiatus in the past decade.
Further reading: (via
Human Rights and Democracy: The 2014 FCO Report: read online I download PDF
China section: read online

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