Foreign Secretary raises Dhondup Wangchen's case during China visit
[31 March 2010] UK Foreign Secretary David Miliband visited China in mid March and raised Dhondup Wangchen’s case directly with Chinese Foreign Minister Yang, but omitted to raise Tibet with Prime Minister Wen.

Image Following the Foreign Secretary’s trip to China in March and the latest round of UK-China Human Rights Dialogue that also took place later the same month in China, a meeting to debrief NGOs working in the fields of human rights, Tibet, legal reforms and other similar focus groups was held at the Foreign Office on 31 March 2010.

During his three-day trip to China, which included economic talks and a visit to the soon-to-be opened Shanghai Expo, the Foreign Office said David Miliband had raised human rights issues with all the Chinese leaders he met, including Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi and Prime Minister Wen Jiabao. However, when asked if the issue of Tibet  had been directly raised with Wen Jibao, we were told it had not, but Tibet was discussed with Foreign Minister Yang. It was very disappointing to hear that yet another opportunity to show government committment to furthering a political solution for Tibet was passed up.

However, Tibet Society was pleased to learn that during his meeting with Foreign Minister Yang, Mr Miliband called attention to three specific cases, that each reflected key areas of concern the UK has on human rights abuses in China. The individual cases were Dhondup Wangchen (a Tibetan filmmaker, who received a six-year jail sentence for documenting opinions on the Dalai Lama and the situation in Tibet), Gao Zhisheng (a Chinese human rights lawyer who had disappeared) and Liu Jiabao (a Chinese dissident who was jailed after calling for political reform).

Mr Yang was apparently taken aback when David Miliband raised these cases and said he felt it was not appropriate for the UK Foreign Secretary to be concerned about such individuals. No information was forthcoming on Dhondup Wangchen or Liu Jiabao, but reassurances were given about Gao Zhisheng. Subsequent to the UK-China Dialogue, Gao Zhisheng made contact with Western journalists to say he was alive and living in a remote region of China, though details of his current situation and the circumstances surrounding his disappearance a year ago still remain unclear.

As well as the three individual cases Mr Miliband raised, further information was requested on a list of a further 50 individuals that had been passed to Chinese officials prior to the Dialogue. However, Chinese officials provided no information on any of the cases and would only say they were working on a response to the list.

Tibet Society commends David Miliband for raising three individual cases, including that of Dhondup Wangchen, directly with his Chinese counterpart and will be asking the new Foreign Secretary (after the election), to urgently follow-up on these cases, as well as the 50 individual cases listed where there is still no further information forthcoming. We will also be urging the Foreign Office to continue to raise individual cases both during future UK-China Dialogues and in all meetings with relevant Chinese officials.

David Miliband at least took a step forward by standing up to his Chinese counterparts and setting out and raising issues that he wanted to discuss. It is hoped that the future government and Foreign Secretary will build on this and continue to stand its ground and not allow China to dictate protocol during such meetings, especially when it comes to Tibet and human rights issues.


Human Rights Dialogue
During the Human Rights Dialogue, the UK focused on legal issues and ethnic minority rights, as well as the situation in Tibet. The following issues were also raised: education through labour, ‘black’ jails, freedom of expression, internet freedom, the death penalty, freedom of religion and ratification of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The Chinese response was reported as generally disappointing and contained the usual associated rhetoric. On the issue of media freedom, China announced it had instigated a special help-line for foreign journalists who faced problems when trying to report freely (this reportedly does work, with a British journalist attesting to its effectiveness). However, such help does not apply to Tibet, where foreign journalists are still banned.

This latest UK-China Human Rights Dialogue, held in Beijing, represented the 18th round between British and Chinese officials. Although there has been an overall lack of substantial improvement in the human rights situation in China over this time (it could even be argued that it has actually deteriorated),
during this latest round, China did comment on the fact the Dialogue with the UK is both the longest running that it has with any individual country and the most in-depth.

In the debrief Foreign Office officials said they try to use the ICCPR as a framework for their discussions with their Chinese counterparts during the Dialogue. The intention is that this may have a longer term impact and will encourage China to eventually ratify the Covenant.

See also:
Foreign Office publishes Annual Human Rights Report 2009

External links:
FCO report: Foreign Secretary meets Chinese Ministers to foster greater dialogue (16 March)
The Economist: Not pointing or wagging but beckoning (18 March) (Report on Chinese foreign policy; refers to David Milibands visit.)
BBC: Missing Chinese dissident lawyer Gao Zhisheng 'alive' (28 March)

For a DVD of Leaving Fear Behind(£1.50 inc P&P), order online, call our office on 020 727 1414 or join Tibet Society and receive a copy with your membership pack.


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