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7 october 2011 001Dharamsala: - A delegation of seven British supporters of Tibet, including five members of parliament (MPs), began a five-day exchange visit to the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile in Dharamsala, north India, on October 3.

Addressing a press conference today, they praised the exiled Tibetan community's commitment to keeping their identity and struggle alive, and reasserted their support of Tibetans' rights to self-determination and genuine autonomy.

Mr Fabian Hamilton, chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, spoke about the issues the delegates discussed with His Holiness the Dalai Lama when they met him on Tuesday.

"The first important issue was the prospects for scholarships for Tibetans from within Tibet to go to British universities," he said. "We want to encourage the British universities to take Tibetan students from Tibet itself, which we think would hugely benefit the Tibetans.

"The other thing is the prospect of getting through to the Chinese people about the real story of Tibet, and the truth behind what has happened there over the last 50 to 60 years...What impressed us was His Holiness the Dalai Lama's optimism in getting through to the Chinese people - to go behind and underneath the propaganda that is perpetrated by the Chinese government."

Speaking on the preservation of Tibetan culture in Dharamsala, Mr Hamilton said: "We were really impressed by the beauty, the wonderful music, the costumes, and best of all by the incredible professionalism and excellence of the cultural performers."

He added, "Our meeting with schoolchildren and new arrivals from Tibet was eye-opening. It reminds you of the oppression and the terrible things that happen to people in Tibet just because they stand up for their own belief, autonomy and culture, and belief in the Dalai Lama as well."

The delegation met Kalon Tripa (political leader) Dr Lobsang Sangay yesterday. Mr Hamilton described him as "a very impressive man", saying, "I think Dr Lobsang Sangay will take the Tibetan community a long, long way."

Mr Hamilton said British government ministers have raised the issue of the suppression of human rights of Tibetans inside Tibet with senior Chinese leaders, and that the British government supports the middle-way policy.

Mr Fredrick Hyde-Chambers, secretary general of Enterprise and Parliamentary Dialogue International, and chairman of the Tibet Society, said the delegation would "garner support for the Central Tibetan Administration in its programme for both Tibetans in and outside Tibet to have higher education and technical professional qualifications.

"We also discussed among ourselves the possibility to request the BBC to have a Tibetan language service," he added.

Addressing the issue of the tragic acts of self-immolation in Tibet this year, Mr Simon Hughes, deputy leader of the Liberal Democratic party, said: "We feel and share the terrible pain of the monks in taking the decision to self-immolate. We have an obligation to work in every way possible to take action that would make it less likely that people were driven to take their own lives.

"We have to work... to give hope to the Tibetans that they would get the dignity to live their natural life."

The delegation's visit, which was organised by the Tibet Society,  also included Labour MPs Ms Cathy Jamieson and Mr Nic Dakin, Conservative MP Mr James Gray, and Ms Philippa Carrick, chief executive office of the Tibet Society.

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