Tibet Groups have reacted in anger today at the news that the five year prison sentence for language rights advocate Tashi Wangchuk was upheld on 13 August. Tashi’s lawyer, Liang Xiaojun tweeted today that “both the argument from Tashi Wangchuk himself and the defending statement from the lawyers were not accepted at all.” [1] Tashi Wangchuk is due to remain in prison until 2021.

“China’s rejection of Tashi Wangchuk’s appeal is a travesty of justice and shows a disdain for the international concern that the case has raised. Our admiration for Tashi’s courage and resilience has reached new heights and we vow to continue pushing for his immediate and unconditional release” said Tenzin Jigdal of International Tibet Network, a network of 170 campaign groups around the world.

Tashi Wangchuk was arrested in January 2016, after carrying out a peaceful campaign to urge the Chinese government to ensure that every Tibetan had access to education in their native Tibetan language. Since his arrest, he has become one of Tibet’s most high-profile prisoners, with Tibetans, Tibet campaigners, human rights organisations, United Nations experts, linguists, and governments all calling for his release.

His case was most recently raised by the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination in August, when experts pressed Chinese officials for an explanation for his arrest. The delegation responded by claiming that Tashi Wangchuk was arrested due to acts towards the "succession of the state".“With China having recently received criticism from the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, and facing its third Universal Periodic Review in November, Beijing has missed an opportunity to correct a serious injustice” said Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren of Free Tibet. “Instead they’ve made it blatantly clear that they will use the language of national security to suppress any activity they dislike. They seem to be quite comfortable bending the rule of law to suit their own purposes.”

Tashi Wangchuk is a 33-year old Tibetan shopkeeper and language advocate from Kyegundo County in the Kham region of Tibet (Ch: Yushu Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, Qinghai Province). He became concerned over the lack of Tibetan-language education when local authorities forced local Tibetan language classes to close, leaving his two teenage nieces with no means of learning their native tongue.

He spoke with the New York Times in late 2015 about his attempts to promote the teaching of Tibetan, resulting in a news article and a video documentary on the New York Times website.[2] He insisted that his interview be on the record, despite the tight restrictions on freedom of speech in occupied Tibet.He also emphasised that his language advocacy was non-political and that he did not wish to criticise the Chinese government or call for Tibetan independence. His attempts to persuade the Chinese government to guarantee Tibetan language instruction were conducted through official channels and were focussed on ending the decline of the Tibetan language and the threat this posed to Tibetan culture. Nevertheless, in January 2016 he was arrested and held in secret. While in detention Tashi Wangchuk was isolated from his family and subjected to torture and ill-treatment.Tashi Wangchuk did not stand trial until January 2018, almost two years after his arrest. During his trial, which took place behind closed doors, the New York Times documentary was screened. On 22 May 2018 he was found guilty of “inciting separatism” and sentenced to five years in prison, which included the time he served in arbitrary detention.Tashi Wangchuk is one of a number of Tibetans who have been convicted of “inciting separatism” and other vaguely worded state security laws that the occupying Chinese authorities routinely use against Tibetans. This occurs, despite the fact that the rights for ethnic minorities are guaranteed by Chinese law, including the right to use their own language. [3]

There are an estimated 2,000 Tibetans political prisoners who remain in jail, many of them for exercising their rights to freedom of expression, their cultural and religious rights, sending information about human rights abuses to the outside world and other acts which are protected under international law. [4]


[1]  Liang Xiaojun on Twitter - https://twitter.com/liangxiaojun/status/1032466215036284928?s=21 “The second instance of Tashi Wangchuk’s case was announced in Yushu City Detention Center on 13th August. His family is not allowed to hear the sentence. The adjudication from Qinghai High Court was received recently, and both the argument from Tashi Wangchuk himself and the defending statement from the lawyers were not accepted at all. The second instance has upheld the same sentence. After the trial, Tashi Wangchuk was allowed to meet his family.”

[2] https://www.nytimes.com/video/world/asia/100000004031427/a-tibetans-journey-for-justice.html 
[3] https://www.cecc.gov/resources/legal-provisions/regional-ethnic-autonomy-law-of-the-peoples-republic-of-china-amended [4] http://www.tchrd.org/tchrd_pdb/prisoners-database/ 


Tenzin Jigdal, International Tibet Network (Tibetan, English) | +91 9822 55516, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or Alison Reynolds | +44 7711 843884 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren, Free Tibet |+44 7387 182260 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Dear Mr Pichai,

cc Larry Page, Sergey Brin

We are writing to express our strong concerns about reports that Google is currently developing a search engine app that will comply fully with China’s severe and repressive censorship methods. The Intercept report on 1 August, [1] based on leaked “Google confidential” documents, revealed that a new censorship app, codenamed ‘Dragonfly’, is being developed to automatically identify and filter ‘blacklisted’ websites blocked by China’s Great Firewall as well as banned search terms pertaining to human rights, Tibet, Tiananmen, democracy and the Dalai Lama.

If Google were to proceed with launching this app in China, it would constitute a dramatic shift in policy and a complete turn-around from past positions taken by the company concerning freedom of speech, human rights, extreme censorship, and cyber-security. Following Google’s withdrawal from China in 2010, as a result of a hacking scandal and the company’s commendable refusal to self-censor, Google reiterated its commitment to a free and open web, stating “we don’t want to engage in political censorship”, adding that government restrictions “not only strike at the heart of an open Internet but also violate Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights”. [2]

It is now highly alarming to find that Google, whose mission is ‘to organize the world’s information and make it universally accessible and useful’, is considering submitting to China’s repressive policies that profoundly restrict freedom of information and promote distorted factual information. There is little doubt that ‘Dragonfly’ would have an immense negative impact on the human rights of Chinese citizens, Tibetans, Uyghurs and other nationalities who, like all global citizens, deserve an undivided internet and free access to information. The very existence of this project signals a failure to serve those for whom Google was designed, as well as a failure to engage with civil society organisations and many world governments, who have consistently raised concerns over the risks posed by technologies, if harnessed for detrimental ends.

Our concerns are clearly shared by many Google employees, and your reported comments at a recent staff meeting – where you are quoted as saying “I genuinely do believe we have a positive impact when we engage around the world and I don’t see any reason why that would be different in China”, and that plans were “exploratory” and in “early stages” – are not reassuring. [3]

We are at a critical moment. Calls for Google to withdraw from Project Maven as well as the Cambridge Analytica scandal highlight the growing public concern over the ability of tech companies to undermine our rights and freedoms. IT companies such as Google should be at the forefront of challenging repressive regimes that use censorship to control society and must stand in support of connecting the world through information.

While Google may have hoped that it would eventually be able to return to a friendlier and more democratic China, the reverse is true: human rights have significantly deteriorated, and Tibet is described by Freedom House as the second “worst of the worst”, with only Syria less free. [4] Google’s development of ‘Dragonfly’ appears instead to legitimise the repressive regime of the Chinese government and support the limiting of civil and political freedoms and promoting distorted information. Google would not purely be ‘respecting’ national laws if ‘Dragonfly’ launched in China; it would be actively implementing them.

Recognising Google’s moral and ethical responsibility, and the threat to the company’s global reputation, we request that you:

  • Immediately cancel the ‘Dragonfly’ project.
  • Draft, publicise and enforce a clear policy stating that Google will not assist states in their censorship efforts by undermining freedom of speech and human rights.

We request the opportunity to meet with you and other Google representatives to discuss our serious concerns and to answer a number of questions we have regarding the due diligence taken by Google prior to deciding to develop ‘Dragonfly’ in coordination with China’s government, and Google’s views on how this new development complies with the Global Network Initiative, [5] of which Google is a participant. We are also aware that many Google employees are members of the Association of Computing Machinery, the code of ethics of which states that: “computing professionals should take action to avoid creating systems or technologies that disenfranchise or oppress people”, and “use their skills for the benefit of society.” This includes “promoting fundamental human rights and protecting each individual’s right to autonomy.” [6] Two Google sources told The Intercept [7] that they felt the Dragonfly project clearly violated the ACM’s code of ethics, which has led them to support the protests inside the company against the planned China censorship.

We look forward to hearing from you and for the opportunity to have a constructive dialogue with your company.

Yours sincerely,

Alison Reynolds, Executive Director, International Tibet Network, on behalf of the Tibet Network Member Groups listed overleaf.


  1. https://theintercept.com/2018/08/01/google-china-search-engine-censorship/
  2. https://googleblog.blogspot.com/2010/04/controversial-content-and-free.html
  3. https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-08-17/google-ceo-is-said-to-tell-staff-china-plans-are-exploratory
  4. https://freedomhouse.org/report/freedom-world/freedom-world-2018
  5. “Participating companies will respect and work to protect the freedom of expression of their users by seeking to avoid or minimize the impact of government restrictions on freedom of expression, including restrictions on the information available to users and the opportunities for users to create and communicate ideas and information, regardless of frontiers or media of communication.”
  6. https://ethics.acm.org/
  7. See 1.

Tibet Network Member Groups signing…

Western Europe:

Aide aux Refugies Tibetains

Association Dorje

Association Drôme Ardèche-Tibet

Associazione Italia-Tibet

Autodétermination-Tibet 09/31

Briancon05 Urgence Tibet

Caisse d’Aide aux Prisonniers Tibetains

Casa del Tibet – Spain

Comite de Apoyo al Tibet (CAT)

Comite de Soutien au Peuple Tibetain (Les Lilas)

Corse – Tibet

Eco-Tibet France

EcoTibet Ireland


Groupe Non-Violent Louis Lecoin, France

Grupo de Apoio ao Tibete, Portugal

International Campaign for Tibet Europe; Amsterdam, Brussels and Berlin

International Society of Human Rights, Munich Chapter (IGFM)

Jamtse Thundel Association

La Porte du Tibet, Geneva

Les Amis du Tibet – Belgium

Les Amis du Tibet Luxembourg

Lions Des Neiges Mont Blanc, France

Lungta Association Belgium

Maison des Himalayas

Maison du Tibet – Tibet Info

Nos Amis de l’Himalaya

Objectif Tibet

Passeport Tibetain

Phagma Drolma-Arya Tara

Reseau International des Femmes pour le Tibet

Save Tibet, Austria

Society for Threatened Peoples International

Students for a Free Tibet – France

Students for a Free Tibet – UK

Swiss Tibetan Friendship Association (GSTF)

Tibet 59 / 62

Tibet Democratie

Tibet Initiative Deutschland

Tibets Kinder im Exile V.

Tibet Liberte Solidarite

Tibet Libertes, France

Tibet Society, U.K.

Tibet Support Group – Ireland

Tibet Support Group – Netherlands

Tibet Unterstutzung Liechtenstein

Tibetaanse-Vlaamse Vriendenkring vzw

Tibetan Association of Germany

Tibetan Community Austria

Tibetan Community in Britain

Tibetan Community in Ireland

Tibetan Community of Italy

Tibetan Youth Association in Europe

TSG Free Tibet And You

Tsowa-Maintenir la Vie, France

Northern Europe:

Association of Free Tibet Denmark

Friends of Tibet in Finland

Swedish Tibet Committee

The Norwegian Tibet Committee

Tibet Support Committee Denmark

Tibetan Community in Denmark

Tibetan Community Sweden

Students for a Free Tibet Denmark

Central & Eastern Europe:

Fair Society o.s.

Friends of Tibet Society St. Petersburg, Russia

International Youth Human Rights Group – Human Rights in Tibet

Polish Movement for a Free Tibet

Save Tibet Foundation

Society for Croatia-Tibet Friendship

Students for a Free Tibet, Poland

The Foundation for Civil Society, Russia

Tibet cesky (Tibet in Czech)

Tibet Support Association – Hungary

Tibet Support Group – Krasnodar Region, Russia

Tibet Support Group – Romania

Tibet Support Group – Sochi Region, Russia

Tibetan Association of Slovakia

Tibetan Community in Poland

Tibetan Programme of The Other Space Foundation

TSG – Slovenia/Podporo

Union Latvija Tibetai

Zida Cels, Latvia

Africa and Middle East:

Israeli Friends of the Tibetan People

Tibet Support Group Kenya

North America:

Association Cognizance Tibet, North Carolina

Bay Area Friends of Tibet

Boston Tibet Network

Canada Tibet Committee

Colorado Friends of Tibet

Committee of 100 for Tibet

Dhokam Chushi Gangdruk

International Campaign for Tibet

International Tibet Independence Movement

Northwest Tibetan Cultural Association

San Diego Friends of Tibet

Santa Barbara Friends of Tibet

Sierra Friends of Tibet

Students for a Free Tibet

Students for a Free Tibet – Canada

The Tibetan Alliance of Chicago

The World Tibet Day Foundation

Tibet Committee of Fairbanks

Tibet Justice Center

Tibetan Association of Ithaca

Tibetan Association of Northern California

Tibetan Association of Philadephia

Tibetan Association of Santa Fe

Tibetan Association of Southern California

Tibetan Cultural Association – Quebec


Toronto Tibet Youth Congress

United Nations for a Free Tibet (UNFFT)

U.S. Tibet Committee

Western Colorado Friends of Tibet

Wisconsin Tibetan Association

Central and South America:

Amigos de Tíbet Chile

Amigos del Tíbet, El Salvador

Asociación Cultural Peruano Tibetana

Asociación Cultural Tibetano – Costarricense

Casa Tibet México

Centro De Cultura Tibetana – Brazil

Grupo Pro-Cultura Tibetana, Chile

Le Club Francais – Paraguay

Tibet Group-Panama

Tíbet Mx

Tíbet Patria Libre, Uruguay

Fundación Pro Tibet – Argentina

Friends of Tibet in Costa Rica

World League for Freedom and Democracy


Anterrashtriya Bharat – Tibbet Sahyog Samiti

Bharrat Tibbat Sahyog Manch, India

Circle of Friends (Philippines)

Core Group for Tibetan Cause, India

Foundation for Universal Responsibility of H. H. the Dalai Lama


Himalayan Committee for Action on Tibet

India Tibet Friendship Society

Japan Association of Monks for Tibet (Super Sangha)

Japan Committee of 100 for TIbet

Lung-Ta Project

Mahatma Gandhi Tibet Freedom Movement

National Campaign for Tibetan Support, India

National Democratic Party of Tibet

Ns3 Rigpa Community Builder’s Foundation

Raise Tibetan Flag Campaign

Roof of the World Foundation, Indonesia

Students for a Free Tibet – Japan

Students for a Free Tibet – India

Students for a Free Tibet – Bangladesh

Taiwan Friends of Tibet

Taiwan Tibet Exchange Foundation

Tibbat Desh Patrika

Tibet Lives, India

Tibet Solidarity Forum, Bangladesh

Tibet Support Group Kiku, Japan

Tibet Support Network Japan

Tibetan Student Association, Madras (TSAM)

Tibetan Rights and Freedom Committee (TRFRC)

Tibetan Women’s Association (Central)

Tibetan Youth Congress

Youth Liberation Front of Tibet, Eastern Turkestan, Manchuria & Inner Mongolia (YLFTM)


A.C.T. Tibet Support Group

Australia Tibet Council

Australian Tibet House Inc.

Friends of Tibet New Zealand

Sakya Trinley Ling

Students for a Free Tibet – New Zealand

Tibet Action Group of Western Australia

Tibet Support Group Adelaide – Australia

Tibetan Community of Australia (Victoria)

Tibetan Women Association and Friends Australia (TWAFA)

Alison Reynolds

Executive Director

International Tibet Network




A coalition of 170 Tibet groups from around the world has written to Google, demanding it immediately abandon its plans to develop a censored search engine app in China and put into place comprehensive measures to ensure the company does not compromise on its principles in order to maximise profits. View the letter here
The letter comes in response to news leaked by The Intercept that Google intends to set up a project codenamed ‘Dragonfly’ to comply with China’s strict censorship rules, and will lead to the tech giant censoring content pertaining to human rights, Tibet, Tiananmen, democracy and the Dalai Lama in an attempt to appease the ruling Chinese Communist Party (CCP).
In a letter addressed to CEO Sundar Pichai, the rights groups – including Free Tibet, Tibet Society and member groups of International Tibet Network – expressed their deep concern over the human rights implications of Google’s censorship plans.
The Tibet groups wrote: “There is little doubt that ‘Dragonfly’ would have an immense negative impact on the human rights of Chinese citizens, Tibetans, Uyghurs and other nationalities who, like all global citizens, deserve an undivided internet and free access to information.”
The signatories point out that Google’s public image is one of inclusiveness and accessibility, illustrated by the company’s withdrawal from China in 2010 after it took a principled approach and refused to comply with China’s demands that it self-censor its content. “If Google were to proceed with launching this app in China, it would constitute a dramatic shift in policy and a complete turn-around from past positions taken by the company concerning freedom of speech, human rights, extreme censorship, and cyber-security” said campaigners in the letter.
Since Google withdrew from China in 2010, the human rights situation in China and Tibet has seriously deteriorated. Today the Chinese government runs one of the most repressive internet censorship regimes in the world, with anything that displeases the CCP, from information about human rights to images of Winnie the Pooh, who some Chinese netizens have compared to President Xi Jinping, being blocked. Extensive monitoring of the internet has resulted in hundreds of people being arrested and imprisoned for discussing democracy and human rights online as part of a wider effort to crush all forms of peaceful online dissent.
The strict internet censorship in Tibet serves to hide from the outside world the ongoing and large-scale human rights abuses committed against the Tibetan people. According to conservative estimates, there are at least 2,000 political prisoners in Tibet,many of them held in unknown locations. Protests by Tibetans are routinely broken up with violence, and torture is widespread.
Freedom of expression, online and offline, is virtually non-existent in Tibet, with the authorities frequently using vaguely-worded “state security” laws to sentence individuals to long jail terms for acts such as flying the Tibetan flag or celebrating the Dalai Lama’s birthday. Tashi Wangchuk, a Tibetan language rights advocate was recently sentenced to five years in prison on politically motivated charges of ‘inciting separatism’ after he publicly sought to realise his right to Tibetan language education and featured in a New York Times article and online documentary.
“Google must not turn a blind eye to the human rights violations being committed by the Chinese authorities nor act as an extension of China’s government by actively implementing its repressive policies. Project Dragonfly is not just an attack on Tibetans and Chinese citizens, but an all-out assault on internet freedom everywhere,” said Gloria Montgomery, Head of Advocacy and Campaigns at Tibet Society.
“Until April this year, Google’s code of conduct began with the motto ‘Don’t be evil’. Sadly it seems that this sentiment is being buried, in word and in deed. Assisting a repressive regime in its efforts to censor information cannot be justified. Google’s executives should consider whether helping the Chinese authorities to shield the people under its repressive rule from human rights and democracy is worth the price of operating in China,” said John Jones, Campaigns and Advocacy Manager at Free Tibet.
This leak about Google’s plans comes amid growing public concern over the ability of tech companies to undermine our rights and freedoms. Google has previously faced widespread public backlash and employee resignations for helping develop technological tools that could aid in warfighting by the US Government in AI surveillance ‘Project Maven’. The company was later forced to abandon the project or risk irreversible damage to its reputation. Google’s board members now face that same dilemma.

Gloria Montgomery, Tibet Society, UK | +44 (0)7377890148 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
John Jones, Free Tibet, UK |  +44  (0)207 324 4605 |  This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Alison Reynolds, International Tibet Network | +44 7711 843884 | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.



Global Tibet Campaigners launch Renewed Call to World Governments to seek tangible evidence of the well-being and whereabouts of kidnapped Tibetan religious leader, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama

[London] For over 20 years, Tibet's Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, has been missing after he and his family were detained by Chinese authorities. Today on the 23rd anniversary since he first disappeared, Tibetans and Tibet Groups have launched a new report calling on world leaders to act urgently and robustly to confront China's disappearance of the Panchen Lama who was taken when he was just six years old.

"Today is the 23rd anniversary since the complete disappearance of Tibet's Panchen Lama and we still have no factual evidence of the fate of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima," said Tenzin Jigdal, International Tibet Network. "It is a systematic failure by world governments for not holding China to account for their blatant disregard for his well-being." 

On 17 May 1995, six year old Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the Panchen Lama and Tibet's second most senior figure in Tibetan Buddhism, was 'removed' from his home by Chinese authorities. Since then, Chinese officials have consistently failed to provide information on his fate or whereabouts to world government officials or United Nations human rights experts.

For over two decades, China has hidden Gedhun Choekyi Nyima away, claiming he is leading a normal life and does not wish to be disturbed; but no proof of this has ever been provided and independent human rights experts have never been given the opportunity to visit him despite numerous requests.

Today's call for a renewed, robust approach is outlined in a new report that reveals that over the last 20 years, Chinese officials have done nothing more than issue a variety of different and misleading statements that have exacerbated concerns about the Panchen Lama's true whereabouts and well-being. The report highlights how, in 2000, a Chinese delegation showed two photographs to both EU and UK officials of a young boy, who apparently resembled the photograph of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima aged six; the boy in the photographs was captured playing table tennis and writing Chinese characters on a blackboard. It was impossible to determine the boy's identity or location in the pictures and neither the EU nor the UK were given copies of the photographs to verify.

"The EU and the UK made promises in 2000 that they would seek to obtain copies of these important photographs but these promises have simply been brushed under the carpet, and the Tibetan people are still waiting for answers," said Gloria Montgomery, Head of Advocacy and Campaigns at Tibet Society UK."We are now calling on the EU and the UK to reignite the strong call for tangible evidence of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima's well-being, rather than accepting at face value the hollow words given by Chinese officials."

Given that China showed officials photographs in the past, it is not unprecedented that they could provide tangible, date-verifiable evidence to the international community. Tibetans and Tibet groups are wholeheartedly urging that governments use these historic facts to hold China to account, to produce authenticated evidence of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima's whereabouts and safety.

"Just last week, delegates representing the Chinese government repeated claims to the Canadian Parliament that the Panchen Lama does not wish to be disturbed; no tangible evidence to substantiate these claims, or facts about his well-being, were provided," said Sherap Therchin of Canada Tibet Committee. "For over 20 years there has been total impunity for those responsible for the Panchen Lama's enforced disappearance. Governments who believe in the basic civil rights enshrined in the UN Declaration for Human Rights must take up the issue of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima without further delay." 

"China's behaviour has been contemptible and the international community must call them out at every opportunity," said Han Vandenabeele of LUNGTA - Actief voor Tibet. "Sadly the EU failed to obtain the only possible photographic evidence of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in captivity back in 2000, but with the next EU-China summit scheduled to take place in the next months the EU must forcefully press China to produce new evidence of the 11th Panchen Lama's well-being and not simply be content with misleading statements".

Adding further insult to the Tibetan people and Tibetan Buddhists around the world, China selected another child to be its chosen 11th Panchen Lama. The selected child was Gyaltsen Norbu, born in February 1990. By installing its own Panchen Lama, China has applied enforced disappearance as a policy to control the cultural traditions and core beliefs of Tibet's reincarnation procedure and are attempting to exert their influence over the future leader of the Tibetan people; a measure that reveals the extent of China's agenda to undermine and weaken the authority of legitimate Tibetan religious leaders, including the Dalai Lama.

The report, 'Missing For Over 20 Years', outlines what world governments must call for, which includes:

● Provide tangible evidence about the well-being and specific whereabouts of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in the form of date-verifiable material.

● Allow independent access by a government or UN Special Procedures body to meet Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family.

● The immediate and unconditional release of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima and his family, and a guarantee of their future safety.

Gloria Montgomery, Tibet Society, UK | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | +44 (0)20 7923 0021
Tenzin Jigdal, International Tibet Network | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | +91 98822 55516
Sherap Therchin, Canada Tibet Committee | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | +1 613 483 5107
Han Vandenabeele, LUNGTA - Actief voor Tibet, Belgium | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | +32 485 03 75 26

MM All Party London 05092018

Yesterday afternoon (9 May 2018), the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet [1] hosted a roundtable discussion on the issue of access to Tibet, led by Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), who presented a new ICT report to the group.

The group, which is co-chaired by Chris Law, MP for Dundee West and Tim Loughton, MP for East Worthing and Shoreham, saw one of its largest turnouts in over five years.

The issue of access to Tibet has long been a sore point of discussion for the Chinese authorities. Despite claims to the contrary by government officials in Beijing, Tibet remains largely closed to foreign visitors [2]. The detention and subsequent expulsion of two New York Times journalists who were visiting Eastern Tibet in February 2018 is but one of China's more recent attempts to limit who enters the territory and control what kind of information reaches the outside world.

Gloria Montgomery, Head of Advocacy and Campaigns at Tibet Society, said:

"President Xi Jinping's claim that Tibet is open to international visitors continues to ring hollow as the Chinese authorities routinely deny foreigners entry into Tibet. Such actions are clear evidence that the Chinese authorities have something to hide and will go to any measures to avoid international scrutiny of their human rights record in Tibet."

In addition to being a major human rights concern, the roundtable discussed how such measures are also highly political in nature and reflect an unwillingness by the Chinese authorities to engage in reciprocal relations with other states, including the United Kingdom.

While European leaders and Parliamentarians, including French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, have referred to reciprocity as a key principle in terms of their bilateral relations with China, discussions have often stopped short of addressing the wider issues.

When addressing the group yesterday, Matteo Mecacci said:

"It is crucial that the principle of reciprocity is implemented not just in terms of trade and the economy, but also in relation to freedom of movement, information and the exchange of peoples."

Acknowledging that reciprocity is an important tenet of international relations, beyond trade, Matteo Mecacci briefed MPs, representatives of the UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office, NGOs and members of the public on new developments currently taking place in Washington, where Members of Congress have introduced bipartisan legislation, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, to promote freedom of movement and an open and accessible Tibet for American citizens and for Tibetans themselves, including the Dalai Lama.

Similarly, while Chinese citizens, diplomats, journalists and NGOs traveling to the UK have unimpeded access to all of the UK, the same cannot be said of UK citizens visiting Tibetan areas. In addressing this issue, the APPG for Tibet discussed new ways forward for political advocacy in the UK and Matteo Meccaci provided an insight into how the UK government can press for a more reciprocal and fair relationship with China.

Gloria Montgomery, Head of Advocacy and Campaigns at Tibet Society said: 

"The one-sided nature of China's freedom of movement regime is a matter for global embarrassment and falls desperately short of promoting equal relations between states, not to mention undermines human rights. At the very least, Tibetans should be able to travel freely within Tibet and China and British government officials, journalists, NGOs and citizens should be granted the same treatment when visiting China that Chinese officials expect to receive when they visit the UK." 

Following the roundtable, civil society organisations from a range of NGOs attended a private meeting to discuss ways forward to address this issue at the UK level.

Gloria Montgomery, Tibet Society | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | +44 (0)7377890148
Kate Saunders, ICT | This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. | +44 (0)7947138612 

Notes for Editors: 

[1] Members of the APPGT: Tim Loughton MP for East Worthing and Shoreham (co-chair), Chris Law MP for Dundee West (co-chair), Kerry McCarthy MP for Bristol East, Karen Lee MP for Lincoln, Nic Dakin MP for Scunthorpe, Patrick Grady MP for Glasgow North, Caroline Lucas MP for Brighton, Pavilion, Catherine West MP for Hornsey and Wood Green, Kate Hoey MP for Vauxhall, James Gray MP for North Wiltshire, Mark Pritchard MP for The Wrekin, Lord Steel of Aikwood, Lord Alton of Liverpool, Barbara Keele, Sir Peter Bottomley and Tibet Society (APPGT Secretariat).

[2] In the last 20 years, China has allowed only two UN High Commissioners for Human Rights to visit the country in order to assess the human rights situation: Mary Robinson in 1998, and Louise Arbour in 2005. Similarly, the UK government's requests to visit the country have fallen on deaf ears. Although a UK diplomat was granted access to Tibet in June 2014 on an escorted visit, requests to visit Tibet since then remain outstanding.


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