March 21, 2008 at 3:58 pm / by

I’ve had a very busy week at work dealing with media calls about the situation in Tibet as my boss, Harry Cohen MP, is the Chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tibet.

On Tuesday 18th March, Harry went to give his support to hunger strikers outside the Chinese Embassy in London. Tibetan students studying in the UK are participating in a twenty-four hour hunger strike in solidarity and support of Tibetan students who have been arrested following the demonstrations in Lhasa.

Harry Cohen MP

The hunger strike is a relay with each group completing twenty-four hours before breaking and passing on to the next group of protesters. At the invitation of Tenzin Samphel, Chairman of the Tibetan Community in Britain, Harry provided the protesters with fruit juice to break their strike and mark the beginning of the next twenty-four hours of hunger. I found out later that some of the Tibetan students had camped overnight outside the Embassy with hardly any bedding which, considering the current weather conditions, could not have been very pleasant.

On Wednesday 20th March, Harry and I went to meet Tibetans from all over Britain who had come to lobby their local MPs about helping their family and friends in Tibet. Just before meeting them, the Prime Minister announced during Prime Minister’s Questions that he would be meeting with the Dalai Lama when the Dalai Lama visits the UK in May this year.

Harry was delighted with this piece of news as he had previously written to Gordon Brown urging him to meet the Dalai Lama. Harry believes that this meeting will be crucial in conveying the message that Britain favours freedom of religion and cultural diversity. We discussed Dalai Lama’s important position of ‘the middle way’, which is basically a non-violent path to achieving his people’s rights.

Harry and I decided that although we don’t usually agree with what David Cameron has to say, we thought his opening question during PMQs was an excellent one.

David Cameron asked:

“The whole world will have been shocked by the pictures on television last night of the security crackdown and the dead bodies on the streets of Lhasa and other parts of Tibet. Does the Prime Minister agree with me that, yes, our relationship with China is vital, and China is a major power, but we must be absolutely clear in telling the Chinese Government that this is completely unacceptable?”

The Prime Minister replied:

“I spoke to Premier Wen of China this morning, and I made it absolutely clear that there had to be an end to violence in Tibet. I hope that Members on both sides of the House will agree with that. I also called for constraint, and I called for an end to the violence by dialogue between the different parties. The Premier told me that subject to two things that the Dalai Lama has already said—that he does not support the total independence of Tibet and that he renounces violence—he would be prepared to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama. I will meet the Dalai Lama when he is in London. I think it is important that we all facilitate discussions, but the most important thing at the moment is to bring about an end to the violence, to see reconciliation, and to see legitimate talks taking place between those people in China.”

Mr Cameron’s expression and response made me think that he really wasn’t expecting Mr Brown’s answer to be quite so positive. He said:

“Can I congratulate the Prime Minister on making absolutely the right decision with regard to the Dalai Lama? It is a difficult decision, but it would not have been made any better by delaying it, and I congratulate him on doing the right thing.”

And obviously Gordon couldn’t resist delivering his final line:

“We make the right decisions at all times.”

Good old Gordon. He’s been coming out with some great one-liners lately!