Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising

Delivered in Plenary - 12th March 2009

Madam President

The EU’s motto is ‘Unity in diversity’. It is a principle that has served us well.

Unfortunately, such an idea does not resonate at all well with the authoritarian Communist dictatorship in the People’s Republic of China. Diversity is suppressed, rather than embraced. Minorities wishing to express themselves in any way other than the mainstream Party-sanctioned way are routinely marginalised and persecuted. This trend can be seen in the treatment of many religious minorities, including Christians, Muslims and Falun Gong practitioners, and most notably in the PRC’s attitude to Tibet.

In 1950, Communist forces invaded Tibet, leading to the exile of the Dalai Lama 50 years ago. Ever since then, Tibet has been under the control of Beijing. The traditional Tibetan culture, which was isolated for hundreds of years, has now been heavily diluted by the actions of the Government, which has been at pains to prevent any sense of Tibetan nationalism from resurfacing. In fact, the systematic and sometimes brutal suppression of Tibetan culture has kindled the fire of Tibetan identity and awakened the world’s conscience to the plight of the people of Tibet.

The inspirational leadership of the Dalai Lama has ensured that Tibet’s future remains very much at the forefront of public debate, notwithstanding the huge efforts made by the PRC to admonish those like the former President-in-Office of the Council, Nicolas Sarkozy, who dared to question Beijing’s point of view.

We in this Parliament have always taken a strong line in defence of the autonomous rights of the people of Tibet, which does not automatically mean the right to self-determination or independence. In doing this, we do not seek to provoke or antagonise China. However, we recognise that our commitment to certain values – human rights, democracy, the rule of law and freedom of conscience – cannot be seen separately from the undoubtedly important strategic economic partnership that the EU is developing with China.

Pro-China voices on the other side of the House will have their say in this debate, but for too long the people of Tibet have been denied their voice, and we must speak for them.