BBC puts spotlight on repression in Tibet as PM Cameron visits China

December 3, 2013 5:23 pm

DHARAMSHALA: As British Prime Minister David Cameron began his visit to China on Monday to bolster trade and investment ties as the main agenda, a new BBC report from inside Tibet puts spotlight on China’s assault on human rights of Tibetans.

Mr Cameron is leading a delegation of around 100 business people on a three-day visit to focus on deepening trade ties with the world’s second largest economy. Relations between China and Britain strained after Mr Cameron met Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama last year. Ahead of his visit to Beijing, a senior official in his office told Reuters that “Britain has put a diplomatic rift with China over the Dalai Lama behind it and Prime Minister David Cameron has no plans to meet Tibet’s spiritual leader again.”

Though China proscribes foreign journalists from visiting Tibet, BBC’s Damien Grammaticas sneaked into Tibet to interview Tibetans about the real situation under the Chinese rule. In the interview, Tibetans express their fears of being marginalised and their culture eroded under the Chinese rule. (Watch video)

“The monks we approached were nervous, China has been stepping up surveillance. One young monk shook his head indicating he didn’t want to talk; other monks waved us away or retreated into their quarters. They have good reason to be cautious. China has been tightening its hold, not just on the monasteries, but all aspects of Tibetan life and culture,” the report says.

China’s continued repression in Tibet has led to more than 122 Tibetans setting themselves on fire in protest. The Chinese government has continued to blame outside forces including His Holiness the Dalai Lama, for orchestrating such protests. His Holiness the Dalai Lama denied such allegations and urged Chinese government to investigate the root causes of the self-immolations. The self-immolators have called for the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Tibet and freedom for Tibetans.

Speaking to the BBC, a brother of a man who burned himself to death in protest against the Chinese repression, denied Chinese allegation that his brother had received money from the Dalai Lama. The mere suggestion, he said, was insulting.

He said the authorities had been many times to question him. They wanted to know why his brother had set fire to himself, but all he could tell them was his brother was a good man acting out of conscience. Tibetans, he added, are frustrated.

“I often feel as a Tibetan I am inferior,” he explained. “I feel very bad about this. Tibetans who go to the cities to find work are seen as darker and dirtier than other people; we’re often discriminated against. I do think I am treated differently.”

High hopes from Europe

In view of Prime Minister Cameron’s visit to China, Austria’s Radio FM4 interviewed Kalon Dicki Chhoyang of the Central Tibetan Administration’s Department of Information and International Relations about the Tibetan people’s expectations.

“We are grateful to countries lending support to the issue of Tibet. With the European Union we have very high hopes because Europe is a continent that has experienced the turmoil of two world wars. And the people through their experience and historic trauma, can relate to the importance of resolving conflict through a non-violent means. His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration are so committed to helping the Chinese government find a solution to the issue of Tibet within the framework of the Chinese constitution,” Kalon Dicki Chhoyang said.

Kalon Dicki Chhoyang reiterated that the Central Tibetan Administration have repeatedly appealed to Tibetans inside Tibet not to resort to drastic forms of protests, including self-immolations.

A recent poll by conducted by Free Tibet, a London based human rights organisation, said it would be right for UK Prime Minister David Cameron to raise human rights in Tibet on his state visit to China. Only 10% thought it would be wrong to do so. The poll also shows that seven in ten (69%) believe that protecting human rights in Tibet is more important than or as important as maintaining good trade relations with China. Only 7% considered human rights as less important than trade relations.

“The Chinese government thinks that a combination of money and threats can ensure the silence of UK politicians. Mr Cameron needs to respect the views of the British people and prove that wrong. The results of this poll are his mandate to show China, the world and the people of Britain that his government is willing to stand up for justice and human rights in Tibet,” Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said.