Gordon Brown must get tough with Premier Wen on worsening Tibet crisis

Thursday, 29 January 2009

Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao will visit the UK this weekend for bilateral discussions with Prime Minister Gordon Brown(1). His visit is the latest in a series of exchanges, or summits, between the two countries at prime-ministerial level, announced in 2004. The exchanges form part of a series of measures designed to deepen bilateral relations between the two countries.

This weekend’s prime-ministerial exchange will take place against the backdrop of an ongoing and intensifying crackdown by the Chinese government in Tibet. Almost a year after last year’s protests, many areas of Tibet still remain under de facto martial law with an overt military presence in many Tibetan towns. Journalists that have travelled recently to Lhasa have reported a sizeable military presence on the streets and snipers positioned on rooftops; freedom of movement is restricted and communications (mobile telecommunications both internal and external, email and internet access) are severely curtailed throughout Tibet. The whereabouts of one thousand Tibetans detained on charges relating to protests still remain unaccounted for by the Chinese government almost one year later; and a recent series of “show trials” has resulted in Tibetans being prosecuted and charged with a range of offences including “espionage”. In the absence of legal safeguards, guaranteed in the Chinese constitution and criminal law but not implemented in practice, Tibetans have been given lengthy sentences which are disproportionate to the charges(2).

In his meeting with Wen Jiabao Free Tibet is therefore calling on the Prime Minister to:

· scrutinise the purpose of well-documented military build-ups in Tibetan towns and areas such as Lhasa, Nagaba county and Kandze and to ascertain whether such forces have been built as a show of strength to prevent future dissent, or whether such force is actually intended for the already planned use of force against restive Tibetan regions.

mirror the UN’s recent request(3) for a “thorough and independent inquiry” into China’s widely reported excessive use of force in cracking down on Tibetan protesters last year. The Prime Minister should also call on China to hand over to the investigating agency a full list of names of all Tibetans still in detention on charges relating to last year’s protests. That list should also disclose where each Tibetan is being detained.

call on the Chinese government to allow cases in all Tibetan areas to be conducted in open court and that consular staff and journalists be allowed to attend such court proceedings.

Director of Free Tibet, Stephanie Brigden, said:

“It is like a pressure-cooker inside Tibet right now with soldiers massed in many towns, snipers on rooftops, show trials and inflammatory Chinese propaganda against the Tibetan people, all of which creates a terrifying picture of Tibet’s future. Much of the attention on Premier Wen’s visit has focused on the Chinese economy, but as Gordon Brown himself has acknowledged in correspondence with Free Tibet, economic growth in China – and therefore global recovery – is contingent upon China’s respect for human rights and the rule of law. It is imperative that the Prime Minister heeds his own advice and puts human rights in Tibet at the top of his agenda when meeting Wen Jiabao.”

Ends

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