Last update06:25:38 AM GMT

UK Human Rights Commission slams UK government's relationship with China


The UK government's Human Rights Commission has publicly released a report on human rights abuses in China since 2013, with one member of parliament describing the situation in Tibet as "deeply troubling" and "never been worse".

The launch of the comprehensive report titled The Darkest Moment took place on 28 June at the Houses of Parliament. Tim Loughton, a member of parliament and chair of the All Parliamentary Group for Tibet said he was pleased that Tibet is referenced throughout the report and the issues in the region have an effect not just Tibetans but on the world.

The scathing report, which includes contributions from Tibet Society highlighting human rights abuses in Tibet, calls on the UK government to "conduct a thorough review of its China policy".

Amongst the commission's recommendations for the UK government are to "meet regularly" with the Dalai Lama and to "urge China to work towards a peaceful and mutually acceptable resolution for Tibet".

On 28 June, the Conservative Party Human Rights Commission launched its report The Darkest Moment: The Crackdown on Human Rights in China, 2013-16. The report is an analysis of China's human rights record under Xi Jinping's leadership. Chaired by Fiona Bruce MP, the Commission held two hearings and took written evidence, which included Tibet Society's report The Human Rights Situation in Tibet: 2013-2016.

Other Tibet submissions came from Free Tibet and Yeshe Choesang, editor of Tibet Post International. The Commission's report notes the evidence submitted indicated the human rights situation in China "is the worst... since the Tiananmen massacre in 1989".

The report adds, "An unprecedented crackdown on civil society, human rights defenders, freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief, to name just some thematic issues, is unfolding." One of the report's sections spotlights Tibet, which it says "continues to be severely restricted". The Tibet section includes evidence submitted by Tibet Society, including case studies of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, Tashi Wangchuk, Gomar Choephel and the Panchen Lama.

The Commission's chair, Fiona Bruce MP, concludes it was the Commission's view "that our government... should place human rights at the centre of our relationship with China, should raise human rights concerns at every appropriate opportunity, and should do so publicly as well as in private discussions."

The report directly quotes Tibet Society on the issue of lack of due process for Tibetans. "According to the Tibet Society, “Tibetans charged with political crimes are often tried in secret, not allowed independent legal representation and evidence against them is extracted by torture.”" The report also quotes Yeshe Choesang of Tibet Post International, who said, “Every aspect of Tibetan life is under siege and Tibetans have even fewer civil and political rights than Chinese people also ruled by the Communist Party.”

The Commission criticises the UK's foreign policy towards China, saying, "We are... concerned that UK policy on China appears to have shifted considerably since 2013; that the UK appears reluctant to raise human rights in China publicly... and that economic interests appear to be overriding other important concerns in our relationship with China." The Commission also says the Foreign and Commonwealth Office's latest annual report on China is "remarkably understated given the scale of the human rights situation".

Of the Commission's 22 recommendations, three specifically refer to Tibet:
(7.) To commit to meeting regularly with prominent human rights activists, including the Dalai Lama, from mainland China, Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong;
(13.) To urge China to extend an invitation to the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief to visit the country, and to be permitted unrestricted access to all parts of the country, including Tibet and Xinjiang;
(14.) To urge China to engage in a substantive and meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives and to work towards a peaceful and mutually acceptable resolution for Tibet;

The Commission calls on the UK government "to conduct a thorough review of its China policy; to study seriously our recommendations; to ensure the promotion and protection of human rights, the rule of law, and democratic values are at the centre of our relationship with China; to explore what steps can be taken to recalibrate this relationship; and to engage actively with human rights Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs), Chinese activists in exile, and, where possible, dissidents and civil society within China, as well as academics and other experts."

In its concluding remarks the Commission said, "In the relationship between the United Kingdom and China, we must make it clear that we are on the side of the people of China - especially in what is described by Yang Jianli, founder of Initiatives for China, in his evidence to this inquiry, as “the darkest moment” for human rights in China in years."

Further reading:
Tory commission calls for cooling in relations with China over human rights concerns (Daily Telegraph, 27 June)
UK should rethink China friendship over human rights, Tory group urges (The Guardian, 27 June)
UK should rethink China friendship over human rights: Rights group (Tibet Post International, 27 June)
UK rights com. says Tibet, Xinjiang and China face their darkest moment (Tibet Post International, 29 June)


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