Free countries must defy Chinese blackmail and greet the Dalai Lama

Gordon Brown yesterday promised to meet the Dalai Lama when he comes to Britain in May. So should all other leaders of free countries, whenever the opportunity arises. Anything less would shame us all. And it wouldn’t help China either.

We face at least three difficulties in reacting to the unfolding tragedy of the Tibetans. We don’t know enough about what’s really going on, because the Chinese authorities are determined to prevent us finding out by expelling journalists, ratcheting up their customary censorship of the internet (including, and telling lies. We feel impotent to prevent the horror unfolding. And we have to balance our deep sympathy with the Tibetans against our interest in a benign evolution of China. Appeasement of Beijing for short-term political and commercial gains is contemptible; trying to ensure that anything we do to help the Tibetans won’t hinder the evolution of China is not. It’s statecraft – and moral, too.

Here’s the good reason for not reacting to the repression of Buddhist monks in Tibet as we did to the repression of Buddhist monks in Burma. No, we shouldn’t impose economic sanctions on the whole of China, as we do on Burma. Nor should we boycott the Beijing Olympics. There is too much at stake. The French foreign minister Bernard Kouchner has suggested that if the repression in China worsens – not only in Tibet, but also with the persecution of Chinese dissidents such as Hu Jia – European leaders might not participate in the opening ceremony of the Olympics. A threat worth making, perhaps, though it won’t get far with his fellow EU foreign ministers when they meet next week.

It may be worth calling for United Nations observers to be sent in to Tibet, though China will doubtless veto that. As important is to insist that the Chinese authorities keep the promise they have made – and are now breaking – to allow foreign journalists free movement around the whole of China in the runup to the Olympics. (If they don’t let reporters go to Tibet, this can only mean that Tibet is not part of China.)

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One response to “Free countries must defy Chinese blackmail and greet the Dalai Lama

  1. I’m ashamed of how Western and South Asian countries (yeah, I’m talkin’ about you, India and Nepal!) have undercut the Tibetans, but I hadn’t heard of any Chinese demand that foreign leaders not meet with the DL, or that any have capitulated to such a demand. Is there news I’m missing? Thanks!!

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