[19 October 2015] Tibet Society, along with Fabian Hamilton MP and several human rights organisations, organised a ‘Stateless Lunch’ at the UK Parliament on the eve of the Chinese President’s State Visit to the UK.
At the event, Tibetan, Uyghur and Chinese activists spoke to the media about the ongoing human rights violations in China and called upon Prime Minister Cameron to deliver a robust, public message urging Xi Jinping to bring an end to these violations and to release all prisoners of conscience in Tibet, East Turkestan and China.
Human rights defenders urge Cameron to raise human rights with Chinese President
‘Stateless Lunch’ in UK Parliament on eve of Xi Jinping visit honours those silenced by the Chinese government
[19 October 2015] Today, in the UK Parliament, human rights defenders from China, Tibet and East Turkestan urged Prime Minister David Cameron to speak out on behalf of those silenced and imprisoned by the Chinese government. It is only through making a robust statement to Xi Jinping on the importance of human rights that the UK can build a strong relationship with China that takes into account strategic as well as commercial interests.
The human rights defenders, along with representatives from human rights organisations, spoke at a ‘Stateless Lunch’ hosted by Fabian Hamilton MP (Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet), an alternative to the State Banquet tomorrow; where the Queen will host the Chinese President and dignitaries at Buckingham Palace.
The ‘Stateless Lunch’ provided an opportunity for human and civil rights issues in China to be raised openly by activists and NGOs, rather than behind closed doors as the UK government claims to do, and without the risk of arrest or punishment as would be the case if such statements were made in the People’s Republic of China.
Fabian Hamilton MP, began the proceedings saying, “It is in our interest as a country for David Cameron to publicly raise human rights as a priority with Xi Jinping, in the strongest possible terms. Engagement and trade links with China are important, but not at the expense of freedom and democracy.”
Tash Despa, a Tibetan who went undercover in Tibet for a Channel 4 documentary, said, “The UK has a unique historic relationship with Tibet because it is the only country to have signed treaties with Tibet before China’s invasion. But now its attitude is that it is embarrassed to even meet the Dalai Lama, who is admired in Britain and across the world as a religious leader. The UK could have a stronger position with China if it showed its strength and refused to kowtow to Xi Jinping. Britain’s leaders must raise prisoners of conscience with the Chinese delegation and insist on the importance of human rights.”
Rahime Mahmut, a Uyghur activist, stated, “I am dismayed at the recent visit of UK Chancellor George Osborne to Urumqi, exactly one year after the moderate scholar Ilham Tohti was sentenced and incarcerated for life. The Chancellor’s failure to publicly raise Ilham Tohti’s case, along with the appalling human rights violations in the region in favour of British economic benefits, undermines what the United Kingdom stands for! The significance of silencing Ilham Tohti is that now the entire Uyghur population is in fear of challenging any of the government’s unjust policies.”
Dr Shao Jiang, a Chinese activist and 1989 Tiananmen Square survivor, said, “By failing to publicly condemn China’s human rights record, the current UK government is threatening to undermine the principle of the universality of human rights, which for centuries the United Kingdom has upheld through documents such as the Magna Carta, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.”
David Mepham, UK Director of Human Rights Watch, stated, “Since President Xi came to power three years ago, human rights conditions in the People’s Republic of China have deteriorated alarmingly. David Cameron should speak out strongly and publicly against these abuses, urge far-reaching reform, and press for the release of all those activists, lawyers and journalists so unjustly imprisoned. This is a moral duty, but also in our interests. China’s repression, pervasive corruption, its flawed judicial system and rampant impunity – these are a grave threat to China’s stability and economy. And that matters to all of us.”
As well as urging the UK government to stand up for the human rights of those living under the oppression of the Communist Party of China, the human rights defenders highlighted the cases of three political prisoners (two of whom died in custody in China):
Cao Shunli: a Chinese human rights lawyer and activist who was detained on 14 September 2013 for publicly protesting for a national review of human rights. She died in custody on 14 March 2014, without her case being brought to trial. It is believed she died from injuries sustained during torture.
Ilham Tohti: a Uyghur academic who is serving a life sentence on separatism-related charges. He is an advocate of autonomy for Uyghurs and worked to promote understanding between Uyghurs and Han Chinese. He was detained on 15 January 2014 and sentenced on 23 September 2014.
Tenzin Delek Rinpoche: a highly respected Tibetan monk and community leader who died in custody on 12 July 2015. His death is believed to be the result of injuries sustained from torture and the denial of medical treatment. Countries including the UK had requested that he be granted medical parole. The authorities cremated his body against the wishes of his family and have refused to launch an investigation into the circumstances surrounding his death. He was arrested on 3 April 2002 and sentenced to death with a two-year reprieve after a secret trial on 2 December 2002. His sentence was commuted to life in 2005.
At the end of the event, Fabian Hamilton led a toast to the speakers and all Chinese, Tibetan and Uyghur and human rights defenders. Mr Hamilton expressed his admiration for all those who risk their personal freedom and livelihoods to bring about peace and justice for China, Tibet and East Turkestan and he looked forward to the day where all the people currently living under the Chinese Communist regime can experience true freedom.
Event supported by:
Human Rights Watch
International Campaign for Tibet
Students for a Free Tibet
Tibetan Uyghur and Chinese Solidarity UK
Tash Despa is a Tibetan from the eastern Tibetan area of Amdo, who went undercover in Tibet for a Channel 4 documentary shown on Dispatches. He escaped from Tibet in 1996 and now lives in London.
Rahime Mahmut is a Uyghur interpreter and singer who left East Turkestan in 2000. She came to the UK to study environmental management. Due to her work promoting Uyghur culture and human rights she has been unable to return to her home country.
Dr Shao Jiang is a Chinese academic and activist. He was a student organiser in the Tiananmen Square protests in 1989, for which he was arrested and held in prison for 18 months. After years of continuous harassment he fled to Europe. His academic interests include politics, social movements and international human rights mechanisms.