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UK parliament delegation visits Dharamshala, India. Photo: TPIDharamshala: Three representatives of the UK support parliament for Tibet have been in Dharamsala since 6th September in talks with the government-in-exile, various NGO’S, as well as the exiled Tibetan people. The UK support parliament fully recognized the ‘appalling abuse of human rights’ that the Tibetan people have suffered under Chinese oppression, and complimented the ‘passion and enthusiasm’ of the Tibetan cause. The representatives, each from separate UK parliamentary parties, emphasized the importance of a united front to put pressure on China to settle Tibet’s ‘achievable and reasonable requests’ to democratic rights. Britain has also promised that international support for Tibet is a here to stay beyond the spotlight provided by the Beijing Olympics. 2009 was identified as a significant year, as it is both the 50th anniversary of His Holiness’ flight into exile, and the 50th anniversary of China’s ‘stone-walling’ of any meaningful negotiation with Tibet.
The message for the UK is that now is the time for questions to be asked and practically answered, and now is the time for results.

TIBET POST: You have met with the Prime Minister of the Tibetan Government-in-exile and speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile. What was the main topic of discussion?

MR. NORMAN BAKER MP: We wanted to tell the Tibetan parliament and prime minister what we had been doing, and to let the Tibetan people know that they are not alone. There is lots of activity in Britain and elsewhere in support of the Tibetans. We wanted to run through some of the activities that we had been under-taking and also discuss with the prime minister how we ought to go about the next 12 months, which is obviously a very important time.

TIBET POST: The next round of talks between the Chinese authorities and the envoys of the Dalai Lama is due in October. What advice would you give the Tibetans in order to make progress from the talks?

MR. NORMAN BAKER MP: I think it’s very important that the Chinese aren’t allowed to put up false hurdles. They want to make the Dalai Lama swear that Tibet was always part of China before they can make progress, which is unfair and a nonsense. It wasn’t part of China, and he himself has said he can’t tell a lie. We in Britain have a role to challenge that because we know that Tibet was never part of China.

I think it would be helpful for the Tibetans to outline certain steps which should be taken to help improve matters, which are perhaps small steps. It is important that the rest of the world knows what these small steps are, and then we can argue for those small steps, preferably before the meeting takes place. This will put pressure on the Chinese because if they fail to take action on these small steps, then the rest of the world will see that the Chinese are being unreasonable.

If we say nothing, then the Chinese will just carry on having meaningless talks. We have to make some details public in a way that puts pressure on the Chinese.

MR. TIM LAWTON MP: We are assured by the Chinese embassy in London that the talks will take place before the end of October as there was some uncertainty that they would happen because the Olympics are now over. But they will happen, and what we have said to the Tibetan delegation is that it is important that they stand firm on the 6 clear measures, which they think are deliverable, and which the Chinese need to show some leeway on.

It is time to start asking for results, rather than talks about talks, which then just delay and delay and delay, and which is then in China’s interest. We need to focus on the six points that are not major strategic issues, but six practical and deliverable measures that will help Tibet and people in Tibet now.

TIBET POST: Back to history, Britain and Tibet have strong historic ties. Do you aspire to Tibetan independence or autonomy?

MR. TIM LAWTON MP: Successive British governments have never recognized the sovereignty of China over Tibet, and I mean the whole of Tibet – not just the autonomous region. The Tibetans themselves are not making a case at this stage for a full independent Tibet. What I think we need to do, at this stage, is to go for the autonomous measures, which the Tibetan people should be enjoying now under the constitution of the People’s Republic of China. So if China would actually consult their own constitution and live up to, in practice, there own constitutional promises that they supposed deliver to other ethnic minorities in China, then Tibet should be now enjoying the benefits of full autonomy. If we can get measures towards that, then I think it’s a first step and everyone would see that progress was being made, rather than have a big debate over full sovereignty or not full sovereignty, which is just a delaying tactic for the Chinese.

Do you think Britain has something to learn from Tibet’s non-violent approach to political gain?

MRS. JULIE MORGAN MP: I think everybody has something to learn from the non-violent approach. I think it very interesting and there’s no doubt that it has kept the surge of Tibet going. My only hope is that it will result in something soon for the Tibetan people, because the problem has been going on for so long that I really feel the international community has got to rally together to try and make something meaningful come. I think it has to be a non-violent approach though, and I think that Britain has a lot to learn from the way in which oppressed people, lead by the Dalai Lama, have protested.

TIBET POST: Many European parliament delegations have visited Dharamsala and made many promises. How do you feel that you visit is going to be more effective?

MRS. JULIE MORGAN MP: Obviously, we can’t say definitely that we will be, but we want it to be now because of the different circumstances – because of the problems in Tibet earlier in the year, and because of the Olympics. Because of the things that have happened, we feel inspired by the visit to go back and make a difference.

Interview by Mr. Yeshe Choesang and Mr. Archie Fellowes.

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E-mail: editor@thetibetpost.com