UK-China Human Rights Dialogue failing to promote human rights in China and Tibet

Friday, 9 January 2009

9 January 2009

For further information: Matt Whitticase: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 / +44 (0)7515 788456
Or e-mail matt@freetibet.org

British and Chinese officials will belatedly meet on Monday for the first UK-China Human Rights Dialogue since China’s brutal crackdown on Tibetan protesters in Tibet last spring. A round of dialogue had been scheduled for last autumn but China stalled and refused to agree dates.

Since the commencement of the UK-China Human Rights Dialogue in 1997, there has been a marked worsening of China’s human rights record in China and Tibet. And in the relatively short period since the last UK-China Human Rights Dialogue, which took place in Beijing in January last year, there has been a drastic deterioration in China’s human rights record in Tibet, most notably the brutal crackdown on Tibetan protesters last spring(1).

The British government claims that “the protection and promotion of human rights is one of the priorities of British foreign policy”(2).The British government’s actual record in promoting human rights in Tibet and China, however, lags far behind its pronouncements. Free Tibet believes that if the British government attached real importance to its China Dialogue as a means of securing improvements in China’s human rights record, it would long ago have put in place an open and transparent framework for monitoring China’s progress.

Free Tibet was recently told by UK Foreign Office officials, however, that no specific human rights benchmarks have been incorporated into the Dialogue against which progress can be effectively monitored. This reluctance to routinely monitor China’s progress against specific human rights benchmarks is inconsistent as Britain does employ such mechanisms for assessing the rights and governance records of other countries with which it has bilateral relations.

Free Tibet believes that this inconsistency on the part of the British government results from an expedient downplaying of human rights concerns within the overall context of its relationship with China so as to focus on the main priority of its China policy: expansion of trade and Chinese investment in the UK.

Director of Free Tibet, Stephanie Brigden, said:

“The British public was understandably appalled by the scale and brutality of China’s human rights violations in Tibet last spring. It is unacceptable so soon after such abuses for the British government to continue to point to the dialogue alone as proof that it is using its relationship with China to act seriously on human rights. To convince the British public that its policy towards China’s human rights abuses is more than a tick in the box exercise, the British government must come up with a more transparent policy which rigorously holds China to account for the sort of abuses we have seen in Tibet in the last year.”

Ends

For further information: Matt Whitticase t: +44 (0)20 7324 4605 / +44 (0) 7515 788456

Notes to Editor:

(1) Scores of Tibetans were shot dead by Chinese armed police in March and April for taking part in peaceful protests, according to eyewitness reports collected by Free Tibet; the whereabouts of more than a thousand Tibetans arbitrarily detained following the protests still remain unaccounted for; areas such as Ngaba county (Ch: Aba county, Sichuan province) and Khandze Prefecture (Ch: Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Sichuan province) where Chinese armed police killed scores of Tibetan protesters last spring remain under virtual military lockdown; and China has scorned the demand by the UN Committee Against Torture last November for “a thorough and independent inquiry into the reported excessive use of force against peaceful protesters”. The UN Committee’s conclusions, which offer a scathing indictment of China’s record on torture, are available at: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/docs/CAT.C.CHN.CO.4.pdf
(2) British Foreign and Commonwealth Office: Britain in China/Human Rights: http://ukinchina.fco.gov.uk/en/working-with-china/human-rights