Championing Tibet in 2021: What Can Be Done?

EVENT TRANSCRIPT: Championing Tibet in 2021: What Can Be Done?

DATE: 9 March, 3:00 pm – 4:00 pm

VENUE: Online

SPEAKERS: Ellen Bork, Tim Loughton MP




Gray Sergeant  00:00

Well, good afternoon, everybody. Welcome to the Henry Jackson Society’s event on Tibet: The Way Forward. And my name is Gray Sergeant, I’m a research fellow here at the Asia Studies Centre. Before joining Henry Jackson Society, I spent a number of years in the Tibet advocacy world at Free Tibet and had my fair share of 10th of March events, which sadly, this year will be very, very different. So I thought it was particularly important for us to do something on the topic of Tibet. I know that it’s not just an opportunity to remember the uprising, but an opportunity for us to remember and for the community, the Tibetan communities across the world. To get together, I’ve been at quite a few. Yeah, lively events here in London. And in 2019, I was in Brussels for the big march of Tibet groups from across Europe, which was really quite something to behold. And I think it’s very much the strength of the Tibetan community. And those advocates that keep people like me going and I’m sure people across the world and our two guests here today, certainly their spirit and resilience is something to be admired and, sadly, something that probably other communities like Hong Kong are going to have to learn from in the years to come. As I said, both my guests are well versed in Tibet policy and have spent many years campaigning and championing for, championing the Tibetan cause. Our first speaker is Tim Loughton MP, who also serves as the all-party parliamentary chair for the Tibet Group. And a vocal speaker on Tibet in the House of Commons, and also the sponsor of the Tibet reciprocal access, which hopes to hold China to account for the restriction that it places on British diplomats and journalists get inside Tibet. And that was very much modelled on some legislation that went through in the US, which I’m sure our second speaker Ellen Bork will be able to tell us a lot more about, as I said to Ellen, before the event, I think I first heard a speaker, Henry Jackson Society a number of years ago, and I followed her work since and I read with interest that a report that she published with the project 2049 Institute on Tibet, and its place in the Indo Pacific. And she also sits on the, on the board from the international campaign referred to that. And so she’ll be able to draw on her experiences in DC and, and flesh out what the US position is and where it potentially could go, and what other countries could do to learn from America. But first, I think we should start off with Tim Loughton MP who would be able to give us the British angle on this perspective. I should add that we, I will ask the speakers to talk for 10 to 15 minutes each, and then we’ll move on to a Q&A session, which you can participate in by dropping a comment in the Q&A box below. So without further ado, Tim, awesome.

Tim Loughton  03:17

Great, thanks for that introduction. Thank you also to the Henry Jackson Society for laying on this event. You’ve called this event ‘Championing Tibet in 2021: What can be done?’, and it’s really encouraging that organisations like the Henry Jackson Society, and other learned and respectable groups are focusing on Tibet. And it’s good to be in good company because some of us have been rather lone voices. I’ve been as Tibet the support of the Tibet cause. Since as a teenager, it’s the very first demonstration I went on outside the Chinese Embassy in in London when I was still at school. And in my 34th year in Parliament, now we’ve occasionally had debates on human rights situations in Tibet. And it’s usually been quite a lonely affair with me and opposition speaker and a government minister to respond. And I chaired your party polygroup political for Tibet. And I think probably in the last year, we’ve never been busier. That of course, has been helped by the huge increase in international attention towards China because of the controversy over Huawei in the UK, the Uighur genocide, and that’s what we’re trying to get legislation to refer to it as the recent events in Hong Kong, the suppression of free speech and elections there and the parallel suppression of the culture of Mongolians and other indigenous people within China. So it’s good that we’ve now got a lot more people who have woken up to what is going on within the borders of China and beyond. But for the case of Tibet, this has been going on since the 1950s. Tomorrow as you say we commemorate the 62nd Anniversary of the uprising against the occupation of Tibet back in 1959. Since then over a million Tibetans have lost their lives, more than 10,000 monks and nuns forcefully evicted from hundreds of destroyed monasteries, put into political re-education camps, the Disneyification, as we call it, of Lhasa, and some of the great cultural treasures of Tibet. Where just having a photograph of His Holiness the Dalai Lama is an imprisonable offence. People can’t go on pilgrimage. There’s threatened children not allowed to participate in religious ceremonies, and a new law passed by the Tibetan People’s Congress last year, with the regulations on the establishment of a model area of ethnic unity and progress in the Tibetan autonomous region was all part of the ongoing cyclization programme. Despite what it says in the Constitution of China about recognising the autonomy and rights of people such as the Tibetans, the Tibetan language has been replaced by Mandarin in schools, banned from teaching it in monasteries, Tibetans have register and seek permission to travel even across the Tibetan Autonomous Region, whilst people coming to the rest of China need no such permissions. There is mass surveillance throughout the whole of Xinjiang, as well as China, of course, helped by technology from the likes of Huawei. And the minoritisation of Tibetans, as millions of Han Chinese have been brought into a Tibetan region. So the persecution of the Tibetan diaspora has gone on beyond China as well, those Tibetan groups around the world find themselves hacked into, under surveillance and constantly persecuted. Now over the past five years, it’s now calculated that 2.8 million rural Tibetans are being transferred including more than 90% of the herder population from the Tibetan region, far from their rice grasslands to concrete block encampments in semi urban areas with no sustainable means to revive themselves, and their families have been placed in re-education camps for political re-education, in all the attention we’ve had recently has been on the Uighur camps. But indeed, Tibet was the training ground for Chen Quango, is now the communist party chief in Xinjiang, after successfully bringing ethnic stability to Tibet, for which he is, is famed. So this has been going on in Tibet for many, many years and all under the guise of modernization, economic development, poverty alleviation, labour skills, training and bilingual education. The party chief of the Tibet Autonomous Region was less bleak when he stated at the end of December last year that official priorities were to control the belly and to control the brain. In other words to render the Tibetan population based, more dependent upon the state for their livelihoods in order to ensure complete control and embrace cultural nationalism and under this leadership a new cradle to grave system of displacement, control and culture in Eurasia has emerged in Tibet. Now, this event builds Tibet as one of the least free places in the world. But in fact, it’s worse than that. The US Freedom House latest report shows that Tibet is now ranked as the joint worst place in the world for civil rights and political freedoms, sharing that badly with Syria. Meanwhile, Hong Kong has dropped out of the economic freedom index altogether. And we’ve had the news in the last few days about 47 activists charged with conspiracy to commit subversion, and you’re only allowed to stand for election in Hong Kong. If you can show that you’re a patriot, i.e. support the Chinese Communist Party. And just last week, we have the British ambassador to Beijing, Caroline Wilson was castigated by the Chinese government for having the temerity to describe the virtues of a free press. That’s pretty grim. And it’s been pretty grim in Tibet for rather a long time. So what is to be done about it? Well, we know from experience that just speeches of outrage and platitudes about China’s anti-democratic credentials are water off a duck’s back. Threats of action rarely work. We’ll be interesting to see what effect if any the sailing of the French fleet through the South China Seas followed by the QE2 aircraft carrier and British warships later this year, has on the on the Chinese. What does have more success and what we need to see more of is concerted action, particularly in collaboration with other nations. Now the formation of the Inter-Parliamentary Alliance on China, of which many British parliamentarians across party are members, I think is an important bringing together political pressure from major democratic countries across the world, including the States and including Australia. And just two years ago in Riga, the World Parliamentary Convention on Tibet met with parliamentarians from across the world and I was there meeting with Congressmen and others from the States and others. The trouble is that at the United Nations, China just simply denies everything. And your UN organisations just failed to stand up to the Chinese. Witness the way the World Health Organisation delegation has recently been treated trying to get to the bottom of the pandemic. And last week, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi in his annual press conference, I’m sure it’s something Dominic Raab would be delighted to have to do once, once a year, declare that China will ratify the UK UN conventions on forced labour, and he denied all allegations of genocide against the Uighurs, an extraordinary irony, but they get away with it. And that’s the problem. So a really significant development. I think, and I’m sure that we’ll hear more on this later from Ellen, was the passing of the reciprocal Access to Tibet Act in December 2018, in Congress, sponsored cross party again by Marco Rubio, and by Bob Menendez and the Democrats, and even had the endorsement of then President Trump. It promotes access to Tibetan areas for diplomats, journalists, politicians, human rights groups and others from the from the west, or else reciprocal access to this case, the US would be denied to those officials responsible, and it does seem to be having some impact in July 2020, the US imposed visa bans and asset freezes on several Chinese officials, including the ubiquitous Chen Quanguo, the communist party chief in Xinjiang. And I mentioned earlier over rights abuses in the region. And in retaliation, Senators Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz and Congressman Chris Smith, were targeted, as well as Sam Brownback, the US Ambassador at large for international religious freedoms, who were banned from going to China. That’s a badge of honour, and I will, should be, delighted if my own version of the bill results in the same ban if I hadn’t been banned already by the Chinese. So in July 2019, I produced my own version of the Tibet reciprocal access bill, it is a 10 minute, private member’s bill, as it’s called, effectively took all the implications of the American bill, put it into slightly more arcane, British parliamentary language. And that is on the order paper. Now, we’re probably gonna have a new session of Parliament after May; I can roll that over into the new session and I think I will have to extend it and just reciprocal access to Tibet to Xinjiang. And the other scenes of these great abuses going on in China at the moment. But in the meantime, it’s there, this bill, to try and put pressure on the government to adopt its terminology. Now, I’m pleased to report that the US Congress has been going further, there’s a new bipartisan bill to expedite refugee applications from the Uyghurs and the Senate has been backing a bill to clamp down on Confucius Institutes as well, which I will come back to in a minute because it’s a really big problem in the UK. But what we really need is for Chinese officials in the UK to be included in the Magnitsky measures where I think we’ve got some really good progress made by the British government in recent months. But it is a glaring omission that so far no Chinese officials have been identified to suffer those, those sanctions within that legislation. And clearly, they need to be, starting with Chen Quanguo who is after all being designated by the US for being a foreign person who is or has been a leader or official of an entity, including any government entity, that has engaged in or whose members have engaged in serious human rights abuse, relating to the leader’s or official’s tenure. So I think it would be progress. Indeed, if we could get this particular individual as the first Chinese citizen implicated in the UK version of the Magnitsky legislation. So what other things can be done? Well, the UN needs to get tough, but are we on a hopeless mission to expect that. I mean, the world’s leadership must hold the Chinese regime accountable for genocide and crimes against humanity and Tibet and Xinjiang and the members of the United Nations should slap economic and diplomatic sanctions on China, we need to have a special session of the United Nations called urgently and a formal statement issued after passing resolution on this whole serious issue about the recent abuses of the Uyghurs that we’ve heard so much about. I think the UK should work in the UN for the appointment of a UN Special Rapporteur for a full and transparent investigation of the forced labour programme and ethnic persecution in both Tibet and Xinjiang. Now, some things that we have done recently which I welcomed is the measures against British companies who are effectively buying goods from Xinjiang, which are produced using slave labour. And that has been called out and think the British government’s made a good start there. We also need to act on universities. There’s a report which is just about to come out, which has been authored by Joe Johnson, the former Universities Minister and President, the Prime Minister, commissioned by the Harvard Kennedy School and King’s College London, which reveals that a third of research in sensitive areas by British universities in areas like automation and control systems, telecommunications and material science, are carried out in collaboration with China. As they said in that report, the UK, its dependence on a neo-totalitarian technology power for the financial health and research output of its universities is now a particular point of vulnerability. We have in this country 20, I think what’s going on here is China’s using broad research relations with universities and other entities to try to fill in any technological gaps that they have themselves as well as in certain areas to try to advance Chinese standards. So the Chinese companies, Huawei being an obvious one, and other Chinese produced equipment will become the equipment of choice as networks get built. And that is a threat to security as that was very much the revelations behind not going forward with the Huawei contract. We have had this year apparently, 26,000 no fewer than 36,000 Chinese students who’ve applied to study in the UK this autumn, the value of that is something like 3.7 billion pounds to the UK economy. Interestingly, a great many of these Chinese students pay in cash. There’s a serious question about money laundering going on there, as well. Do we really want this level of Chinese influence in our universities in this country, and I hope that the UK government is going to take this whole situation rather more seriously. There’s also the longest running problem about the influence of Chinese government businesses on UK business and UK boardrooms, we heard all about the British Huawei, non-exec directors all paid at least £100,000. There’s been a big increase in the number of companies, Chinese companies, operating within the UK with a combined turnover of $138 billion as of last year. And those numbers have been increasing, resulting in over 75,000 employees, the UK remains the most popular European destination for Chinese investment, the third of all the deals in Europe, come to the UK. That needs to be scrutinised. And we need to look at whether this is benefiting British business and Britain overall. And we welcome the recent action by Ofsted against the broadcaster CGTN, because of its affiliation with the Chinese Communist Party, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. So there’s a whole load of areas where we need to follow the example of the Americans, we need to be tougher on sanctions directed at certain individuals, we need to have much greater scrutiny on our universities and Chinese influence in our businesses. But there’s one final area I just want to flag up as well and that is the environment. There’s been a very interesting report by the Scottish Centre for Himalayan research, which is based at Aberdeen University, came up just last month. And when I was last in Dharamsala with the Tibetan community a couple of years ago, there’s a lot of effort going into research into the impacts of climate change on the Tibetan plateau and the effects of Chinese heavy industry pollution and mining in the whole of that that region. China is responsible for 20 to 36% of greenhouse gases. In the world, the US 15%, UK just 1.1%. They said that they’re going to be net zero by 2060. But the recent five year plan actually shows that emissions from China will increase and since 2011, they have consumed more coal than the whole of the rest of the world put together as they increasingly roll out more coal fired power stations. Yet the Tibetan plateau and its surroundings contain the largest number of places outside the polar regions, which are at the headwaters of many prominent Asian rivers that service more than 1.4 billion people with water coming down from the Tibetan Plateau into the Indus, the Ganges, the Brahmaputra, Yangtze and Yellow rivers, and the warming in the Tibetan Plateau which is going on is going to reduce that water resource, decrease snowpacks, accelerated glacier mass loss and changes in permafrost rivers and lakes will occur in response to these increased temperatures. The Tibetan Plateau is the third whole region nearly the size of Europe, the largest mass of frozen freshwater outside of the polar regions and temperatures across the Tibetan Plateau are increasing at a rate between two and four times the global average. This is on China’s watch. So even somebody who has no interest in the politics and human rights situation in China, has no knowledge of the abuses suffered over the last 60 years by the Tibetan people, starting with the Dalai Lama, should be concerned about the impact that Chinese policy in the Tibetan region is having on the world’s climate. And that’s why we must pull them out at COP 26 in Glasgow at the end of this year. And the world needs to stand together to say that we will not tolerate the abuses that go on of people within China. And we’re certainly not going to tolerate the abuse of the planet, that China continues to promulgate through its act on climate change in deeds to worsen the situation. So those are a number of areas where I think we have got to beef up our response where we’ve got to toughen up our act. And we must call the Chinese out. Because it’s only when you do rather than kowtow to them, does it actually start to have an effect and goodness knows we owe it to the Tibetan people and all freedom, peace loving people throughout the world to call China out on this one.

Gray Sergeant  21:46

Thank you, Tim, for your comments, and put it into a bigger perspective outlining the gross human rights violations that happen in Tibet, but also the bigger environmental picture, and also showing the complexities and difficulties of those of us trying to champion Tibet face, not just our countries bilaterally or international organisations trying to challenge China. But at home, we’ve also got to deal with our own Congress Party influence, and dependency. So there’s a lot to tackle there. And probably actually, we can learn a lot from America in terms of reducing dependency, as well as how we raise Tibet on the international stage and try through different measures to put pressure on the Chinese regime to improve human rights in Tibet. So perhaps, Ellen can take this conversation a little bit further by talking about progress in the US and the way forward.

Ellen Bork  22:47

Thank you. Thank you very much. And it’s really great pleasure to be with the Henry Jackson Society, which is a wonderful collaborator for American policymakers. And as Gray mentioned, I spent a very pleasant year there, working, in fact, on a long term Tibet project of mine. It’s also an honour to appear on the same platform as Mr. Loughton, who covered everything. And I think the one thing I can do that might be helpful is again, sort of offer a US perspective, a little bit about what’s been going on. A lot of my work actually looked back at the evolution of America’s position on Tibet. And, in fact, both the United States and Great Britain shaped Tibet’s status, generally for the worse. And so I think it’s the least we can do to all join together now and Mr. Loughton and his colleagues in the US Congress to try to write that and try to look back at how that happened, and how we can now change our approaches to Tibet, to adopt a really strategic approach and so many of the issues that Mr. Loughton mentioned, you have an external, a strategic component. And that’s really where my work has focused lately. reciprocity is a good sort of concept to start with, because there really is no equivalence between the way the democracies approach Tibet and the way China, particularly the Communist Party, approaches Tibet. There’s a real imbalance there, I think, as the United States works with its allies to revise their approach to China, that could change and that’s really what we should all be working toward. And as you know, the United States has really emphasised human rights, supporting the Dalai Lama’s quest for meaningful autonomy within Tibet and for dialogue with the Chinese Communist Party. And sadly, these have really not been successful. And part of that from the US perspective, I think is this engagement policy, really dovetailed with support for those initiatives. There was a real effort to purge it, to believe, to project on to Chinese leaders a willingness to compromise but also to sort of to be brought into the international community and that posture, or that assumption, that premise of US policy has really dramatically changed over the past few years, in large part due to the Chinese behaviour and Chinese government’s behaviour, in the party’s behaviour and in large part due to the architects of America’s China policy under the Trump Administration. There have been some notable successes even before that, in US policy formulation, one of them was dates back to the 90s, the appointment of a special coordinator on Tibet issues in the State Department, and that a great deal of credit goes to not only the Congress, but to Secretary Albright who saw that that should happen. And ultimately, I’m not sure it was placed at a very senior level in the State Department. That position was only filled at the very end of the Trump administration. It has, in my opinion, nothing to do with the interest in filling the position or having a robust Tibet policy. But it was difficult to get a particular Undersecretary appointed who usually held that portfolio. And so it remained unfilled until the end when it was placed at the Assistant Secretary level, a very fine Assistant Secretary for human rights. So I think that will change again, and the Washington, Tibetan community is waiting to see what the Biden administration will do. They’ve said a lot of strong things, both during the campaign and as a candidate, President Biden issued some very robust statements, a robust statement on Tibet. And I think people are confident that it will get at least as high attention as any previous administration. That’s not really a concern. I think the greater concern is how substantive the policy will be, and how much this the Tibet issue becomes a matter of I think, as Mr. Loughton mentioned, for collaboration among our allies, that really is the only thing that could make a difference. Tibet, the party treats Tibet as a strategic issue they always have. Mao said we will occupy Tibet because its strategic position is important to us. All of the policy has been designed to secure Tibet to secure its borders to extract resources to now we see the Sinicization campaign. But there’s a great external element of China’s Tibet policy as well. And again, Mr. Loughton touched on it with the reference to the dominance in the UN agencies, litmus tests for a lot of positions related to the parent, their supposed self-proclaimed core interests. And this way, this concept of a core interest, which was initially defensive, the core interest being Tibet, Taiwan and Xinjiang, has expanded and become more ambitious as a kind of a launchpad for projecting Chinese influence. And that includes not only these issues along the Sino- Indian border, but much further afield in their bilateral relations and in regional organisations and the ones that they’ve created or ones that they choose to that they’ve dominated. So Tibet has really become like a cutting edge, an instrument of influence beyond the concept of Tibet itself, or the issues of Tibetan rights themselves. And I think we’re all facing a particular challenge in the future, with the battle over the reincarnation, and this is something where the United States has begun to focus on this question as a strategic matter as a matter of strategic competition. The Tibet policy support act had a major focus on that issue and potentially sanctioning officials who are responsible for subverting the reincarnation process or interfering with it, and that kind of thing. But I think, again, there’s a sort of inequality there, because in the way China approaches the issue and the way the United States and democracies do, because I think democracies reflexively regard religion as a private matter, something that they shouldn’t be involved in, and that’s quite right. But there are there are ways in which it is appropriate for the United States and it has to support the integrity of Tibetan Buddhism, the prerogatives of the Tibetans and His Holiness, his plans for his own succession. I’m sure a lot of people on this call know more about that than I do if you’re a Tibet scholar, someone who’s interested in it, but I’d refer you to His Holiness, his 2011 statement on his reincarnation which he maps out what might happen, he’s made common sense. The key things to know are he completely rejects the Chinese role in his succession. He says it will not take place, the reincarnation will not take place under Chinese control, and has laid out a couple of other scenarios that could occur. But I think again, it’s sort of when looking at it as a strategic issue. You can see that for the Chinese Communist Party, attempting to assert control over Tibetan Buddhism and reincarnation issues is part of a resort to their Imperial grandeur to a part of an effort to recover that grandeur and to associate itself with the imperial powers of some of its predecessors. There again, His Holiness has rejected the Imperial ritual that China has claimed and actually used to name a bogus Panchen Lama. But you can see how this this is not just a question of religious freedom only, it has strategic and international implications. Here I just mentioned, I don’t want to go on too long. But this is the issue of Tibetan exile. Democracy is also something which has strategic resonance. And as Greg mentioned, I consider it an important element of any American Indo Pacific strategy. Recently, Lobsang Sangay, the outgoing head of the Tibetan exile government elected position, has developed a strong presence in the United States. And Washington was welcomed for meetings, for the first time into the State Department and I believe the White House Office Building. This is significant, it does not signify a change in America’s view of Tibet status at all. However, it should make people think back about how that status evolved, why Great Britain and later the United States chose not to treat Tibet as they had the Baltic States when they were occupied. There are factual differences. But I think the concept is really worth looking into, from the United States point of view. This all evolved or developed from the position the relationship the United States had with Chiang Kai Shek, and a desire not to undermine him while he was trying to recover his grounds and territories that were lost by the Ching Empire, and not wishing to undermine him as he left and went to Taiwan. And when you read sort of a lot of the back and forth, I think the first time we the United States took an official position on Tibet status was actually at the behest of the British, and there was just desire to kind of keep things to maintain his claims, although they were also pushing him to give them up, which is another interesting question. But you know, we don’t have to change, we don’t have to come out in favour of Tibetan independence, but we can do much more to recognise His Holiness, his Democratic legacy, the efforts of the Tibetan people in exile and what Tibetan democracy project means for Tibetans inside Tibet in the future. I guess I think I’ve covered most of what I’d like to say. And I guess I’ll stop and wait for wait for questions. Let me know if I missed anything.

Gray Sergeant  33:19

That’s great. Thank you, Ellen. And an important point about raising the profile of the Tibetan government in exile. And that not necessarily would force the UK to advocate for Tibetan independence. But it would be a recognition of the strides that they’ve taken to democratise and keep the community together. So I think that might well, it does feed into one of the questions that we have got and please do submit your questions in the Q&A box below. We have one on Why hasn’t the UK, a UK Prime Minister, met with the Dalai Lama since David Cameron, so we’ve had two conservative Prime Ministers since. I imagine Theresa May was rather busy with all sorts but didn’t find the time to meet his holiness. So perhaps Boris Johnson, what are the chances that Boris will meet? And a similar point might be made with? Why not the Trump administration? Is it likely or a video call of some kind with the Biden team? Is that on the cards? Could we go to Maggie to ask her question, please?

Maggie Heratsky  34:34

Hi, thank you, very, very, very interesting presentations. My concern as an ex UN staff member, is how you could expect the UN to be able to take any significant action given that China has the veto as a permanent member of the Security Council.

Gray Sergeant  34:55

That’s great. Thank you very much. Right. Yeah, I think that if that’s okay with Leslie, that is answering less Leslie’s question about the Chinese veto, but perhaps also, more broadly, other UN sub-organisations like the Human Rights Council where I know China does a lot of work to try and keep Tibetans and other civil society groups out from speaking there, and trying to alter the definition on which we work with when it comes to the human rights to shift more towards the economic focus and downplay the rights of minority groups and their ability to practice their faith and speak out freely. So perhaps if you start with those two, I can see a few more coming in. But perhaps, Tim, if you’d like to respond to any of those two questions

Tim Loughton  35:44

Yeah, I mean, Maggie, I’m afraid has flagged up the problem which I alluded to, which is we are never going to get anything done through the UN, whilst China has the power of veto and has blocked so many, so many things, which is hugely frustrating. And that’s why I said earlier, they just get away with it, the fact that they’re signing up to this latest conventions against slave labour, and yet they have absolutely no intention of abiding by them, as we’ve seen what’s been happening in Xinjiang. That’s why it’s important that individual governments take action, which is why there’s such a row going on at the moment about genocide. So we have in the UK Parliament, the trade bill going through and a group of us, backed by AIPAC, the Interparliamentary Alliance, have been trying to put an amendment to that bill, that would effectively make it more difficult to deal with countries where they have been found to have committed genocide. I think most people will probably be of the view that it’s not a good idea, dealing with countries who commit the most heinous crime of genocide, and we’re getting some resistance from the, from the government as to putting this into legislation. But we have to, because if we don’t take the initiative, America, the Trump legislation, one of the last things it did was to describe what’s going on in in China as genocide. And it’ll be interesting to see what follow through there is to that. So they can be prosecuted in our own courts, and it can then impact on government’s policy. And that probably is the only way we’re going to do it. And if America can do that, if the UK can do that, if other European nations can do that, if Australia can do that, then collectively, that has a big impact. So if we can’t act with the UN because of China, then we have to act without the UN on account of China. And that’s why what sounds like a sort of rather techie row going on over genocide at the moment is really important, because it’s just not happening through the UN. It’s not going to happen through the UN and the international courts anytime soon. So if we are serious about having an ethical foreign policy post Brexit, then we need to get this through, we need to set an example for other countries.

Ellen Bork  38:29

Oh, no, I take the question as points and pessimism. I think, you know, the UN is a battleground. There are two things going on. Yes, they can veto a lot of things. But I think more significant right now is the corrosion of the culture of democracy around the world that are in the assertion of alternative norms and the imposition of litmus tests for their positions on Tibet and other issues within UN agencies. We can work to, I mean, it’s an uphill battle, but we must engage in that and we must prevail on that. I wasn’t as crazy about leaving the Human Rights Commission as some, I think it’s worth engaging that fight to restore certain principles and universal values. So I’m not entirely pessimistic in the long run.

Gray Sergeant  39:29

And both of your thoughts on Dalai Lama diplomacy, we know over the years that it’s been under decrease for a number of reasons. But I know Tim will be able to explain a little bit more detail to the shenanigans that went on with David Cameron and his visit, and nothing. And obviously, Trump broke what seemed to be a long standing precedent since I think perhaps, George HW Bush so you know, is this the end of that kind of engagement and you know, what are the prospects for the future?

Tim Loughton  40:03

I, I was a victim of the, the Cameron diplomacy and the failure to, to act on China. So when David Cameron was the leader of the opposition, the Dalai Lama came to the UK, he came to Parliament and I helped host a meeting for him and I acted as his chaperone. And he specifically went to have a meeting with David Cameron and William Hague, then the shadow foreign secretary, and later foreign secretary, who was actually always very supportive of the Tibetan cause. Interestingly, well, it’s just that when it came to it, and when they were then in government, they just were not prepared to follow it through. And when I was a minister in the coalition government, the Dalai Lama came back for a visit to the, to the UK. And he was being hosted for a lunch in the House of Commons by the speaker, I was invited to be part of that lunch, along with Norman Baker, who was a Lib Dem minister within the coalition, who is the long standing supporter of Tibet and president of the Tibet Society. We were both banned by Number 10 from attending that, that lunch. And it was a pretty, pretty fearsome ban. And it was, you know, made fairly clear if we gone to the lunch, then we may no longer be ministers. Completely unnecessary. It was a sort of not particularly high profile lunch anyway, as it was Nolan Baker, and I had actually gone to the Albert Hall to meet the Dalai Lama the day before, unbeknownst to number 10. So we still got to see the Dalai Lama and express our good wishes to him. But I think what this was indicative of is the huge power that the Chinese government and Chinese authorities have behind the scenes. So that time when the Dalai Lama came over, he was visiting many places in the UK ending up in Scotland. And he was being hosted by businesses, academic institutions, local councils, a great number of whom cancelled on him, because basically, they’d had the pressure put on them by the Chinese authorities about possibly losing a bit of funding for university or losing a contract for a free business. They’re just absolutely paranoid about giving the Dalai Lama any public platform that gives him any form of status. And I mean, it’s just so counterproductive. Because, you know, frankly, you’re giving more publicity to the Dalai Lama by trying to clamp down on the Dalai Lama. And that’s why we just don’t understand, you know, the Dalai Lama, since he split his status between the spiritual leader and previously having a political role. What harm could the Dalai Lama really do to the future of China? And yet the oppression and human rights abuses, and the targeting of the Dalai Lama is just hugely counterproductive. And I’ve just not understood it. But you know, Cameron was intimidated from meeting him in public, every other Prime Minister and President have done as well, despite I’m sure privately, being very sympathetic to the Dalai Lama and to the cause of the Tibetan people. And as I say, you know, the Chinese get their way, you’ve got to stand up to them, you’ve got to call them out. And that means standing side by side on a platform by the Dalai Lama, and saying, no, we will support the Tibetan people because what you’re doing to them is unacceptable.

Ellen Bork  43:41

Right, right. And you can predict that the same CEO or university president or politician who declines a meeting with His Holiness will be demanded to meet with an imposter Dalai Lama down the line, very much a trajectory of Chinese influence and power using the issue of Tibet. And the best way to arrest that is to meet with His Holiness, to meet with Lobsang Sangay or his successors. I don’t know, I don’t have the full story of what happened during the Trump Administration. But you know, His Holiness was travelling a lot less and not generally. And he’s certainly been isolated politically, he could I predict, you know, I imagine he would be able to if his health permits to come back, and then he would be received. And I also know that the Tibetan side is very careful. Not about the China issue, but not to burden, they’re very polite. They don’t want to ask too much. I’m curious to see if something might happen where vice president Harris goes to India, and wants to make a call, which would be lovely, and what the Indian government would say about that. So, you know, these things play out in unpredictable ways. His holiness is older. But I’d love to see some very senior American politicians make trips to Delhi or Dharamsala.

Tim Loughton  45:10

Great. Can I just add to that, because Ellen’s absolutely right the (inaudible), who was a fantastic (inaudible), he’s just about to stand down and travelled to London several times. And the last time he was here, we invited him to Parliament. And he came into the chamber and they were sat in the gallery. And speaker Bercow for all his faults was actually a great supporter of Tibet, actually, name checked the (inaudible) from the chair of the House of Commons, which was a great thing to do and hugely annoyed the Chinese. But it was it was a great, a great gesture to have to have done that.

Gray Sergeant  45:51

Certainly was and I remember, I think I was at the event. And I think speaker Bercow actually came along, to say a few words. Yes, it was very good. I’m actually slowly getting my way through David Cameron’s for the record. And funnily enough, this incident with the Dalai Lama isn’t covered in much detail. But the point about William Hague’s slightly more sceptical approach to China, what was noted, and it does seem that things in the UK have moved away, shifted away from that golden era rhetoric, perhaps not as much as we’d like. We’ve got two more questions in the Q&A box. I could ask Nick to speak and use mic, please.

Nick Weeden  46:34

Hello. Anything that weakens, the Chinese Communist Party must be a good thing for Tibet, and other persecuted minorities. And given that liberal democracies and capitalism tend to certainly have for the last 30 or 40 years tended to push the opening up of the world trade, profit maximisation, and that there is heavy political pressure not to upset China too much. Could I have your thoughts? Maybe this is more relevant to Tim as a UK MP. But I’d be grateful to have your thoughts on what he thinks is the best way for the UK and hopefully the EU to try and decouple our economy from China that reduces dependence and also perhaps, push for a mass boycott. Idealistic I know, it is of goods made in China, all with the purpose of trying to weaken the CCP and reduce their ability to bribe and abuse their way through the world.

Gray Sergeant  47:57

Okay. On the on the broader question of Western Chinese tight trade ties to a more specific question about boycotts of separation. Could John unmute his microphone? Are you able to unmute your microphone, John? That’s great.

John Jones  48:31

All right. My question I asked was about the Winter Games which can be hosted in Beijing next year. Last time that China hosted Olympic event, we were told it would lead to China opening up and an improvement in human rights standards. Instead, the opposite happened.

Gray Sergeant  48:59

That’s great. Thank you, John. And I suppose the question is, what should our countries’ responses be to the Olympics? Well, we go for a full boycott or simply not sending dignitaries and discouraging sponsorship and all that comes with that. And I think, possibly given the time, that would be our last round of questions are probably one more in about I think the US passed legislation to encourage or encouraged the State Department to make sure that the next consulate opened in China would be in Lhasa and that no other consulates would be opened before that, which does seem in theory to provide the us with some leverage, but don’t know how realistic it is. But also, I just wondered if you could talk about the importance of getting that diplomatic presence in Lhasa and what that could mean for the human rights situation there. So perhaps if we start with Tim, on this round of questions.

Tim Loughton  50:02

Okay, let me take the next question about the economics and then the Olympics and perhaps Ellen in particular wants to deal with the Lhasa consulate. Nick, you’re absolutely right. That is the problem. Why does China do so well? Because it produces lots of stuff cheaply. And also, it owns an awful lot of our debt. I mean, if the Chinese were to decide to sell all their guilts and the treasury bills in the States, then the western economies would be in serious problems. So we are all in huge hock to the Chinese. And they have big investments in many companies in the US and the UK, they own everything from Weetabix to Viridor, I hadn’t realised they own who deals with all our sewage as well. So they are responsible for the entire human food chain going on in the in the UK. So they are deeply embedded in our economies. But there’s a fraud going on here, which is why I want to come back to the to the environment, because we have exported an awful lot of our carbon emission responsibilities effectively to China to produce stuff more cheaply. Why can they produce steel so much more cheaply, it’s because they’re using coal technology and other highly pollutive technology and paying slave labour wages as well. And then we’re buying quite a lot of it. Less so Chinese steel these days, I’m glad to say but there’s still an awful lot of stuff that we’re buying from the Chinese, we have got to take a stand. And that’s why I think the environment is one way of doing it. That just as now we brought in this slave labour criteria for British firms buying cotton goods and textiles from Xinjiang, then there should be an environmental criteria as well, that if we’re buying goods that are produced in highly polluted ways, and that’s why we can get them cheaply, we should not be buying them. Now, I wouldn’t want to make that initially a sort of government ban. But if various governments can group together to say that we should not be signing those sorts of contracts, then actually the market may do the work of the government for it. But if not, I think we need to get to a stage where various governments acting in coalition should enforce those sorts of policies. And that will hit the Chinese where it hurts, in the pocket. And that is how you do make them sit up and, and listen. And then secondly, on the on the Olympics, I mean, this is an interesting one. I remember the Moscow Olympics in 1980. And one of the things I think Mrs. Thatcher got wrong was to boycott the Moscow Olympics, not just at a government level, but British athletes who went and they did still go, they weren’t able to perform under the Union Jack now, and some athletes didn’t go at all. Now, I’m not in favour of using sport as a political tool. So I would not want to boycott British athletes going to the Beijing games. I don’t think they should have ever been given to Beijing in the first place. But we are where we are. But absolutely, we should not be sending government representatives, we should not be sending royal family, even Harry and Megan to the Beijing games to give them any credibility of status as well and make our political points that way, too. And these sorts of things. The Chinese do take badly when you have big diplomatic snobs. And again, if it were not just us doing that, but a great many other nations doing that. So the VIP boxes and rows are completely empty, or I’ve only got Chinese officials in them. It causes embarrassment, and it does get noticed. But all these things are incremental, we just need everybody to be doing the same thing, working together to come up with a big bang effect that does actually impact on the Chinese to change their ways.


On the Olympics, I’ll just say I’m not sure if I favour a boycott or we’re moving them which is obviously very logistically difficult to imagine. I do think it’s a part of Xi Jinping effort to impress and it’s a major expression of his attitude. Globally, his effort to raise China’s profile and displace other powers and such. So I don’t think it’s just sport is really what I’m trying to say. And I think it requires a different response. But moving on to the consulate issue. I can’t see that happening soon. But there are steps to go to move forward with the reciprocity and visits of diplomats, journalists and tourists. And we should all press towards that it would be a wonderful thing. It would be, I think, very much down the road. And in the meantime, we should pursue other kinds of support for Tibetans as much as we can. But it’s a perfectly reasonable objective.

Gray Sergeant  55:24

That’s great, thank you. And another stringing our bow in terms of things we’re pushing for to advance the Tibetan cause, nearly up to the hour. So I’ll just summarise some of the thoughts that we’ve discussed today. And, I think one of the things that I was going to remark on earlier was Tim’s point about the behind the scenes pressure on the councils and the universities and businesses who wanted to meet with the Dalai Lama. And I think it’s very important that at events like this, we talk about that openly and make people aware because I don’t think many people are. There was a couple of news reports about the whole thing that went on with Parliament with Tim and who and another minister has not been able to visit the Dalai Lama. But the sheer extent of what they’ve called the Hidden Hand, is really not known and should be raised a lot more. So it’s about countering that then also about pushing against China, whether it be through Magnitsky sanctions, as Tim said that we haven’t done against any Chinese officials, but the Americans have, and also pushing on the Dalai Lama reincarnation campaign, which will be no doubt an important part of the Tibet movement in the years to come, as it becomes clear that China will try and stitch up the system with another fake Panchen Lama. So I would just like to thank everyone, for coming on to the event. And thank Tim and Ellen for speaking, I’m really glad that we were able to put something out there before the 10th of March and get this issue on the agenda. And no doubt, this is something that I myself and my colleagues will be focusing on and looking at in the future. And certainly, hopefully, you can help push through Tim’s bill which may expand further, not just Tibet, but also focus on Xinjiang and Hong Kong, and make sure that the British government actually does something. Not when it says much at the moment, but when it does say stuff it’s welcome, but we want the push them to do stuff as well. So once again, thank you, everyone for coming along today.


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