Letter: The Dalai Lama's reminder of lost freedoms

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The Independent Online
Sir: The presence of the Dalai Lama in London this week and last, and the packed audiences his talks draw, is testimony not just to the wisdom of his spiritual message but to the justness of his political cause. The problem of Tibet, far from disappearing, is gaining enormous sympathy worldwide, as understanding begins to catch up with what happened in 1950 when the Chinese Communists overthrew a de facto independent state with a functioning government accepted by its people.

It is to be hoped that President Bill Clinton will at the very least tie the renewal of China's most-favoured-nation status to improvement of its human rights record in Tibet and the creation of opportunity for democracy to emerge within China, including occupied Tibet. But Britain's role, as the only Western nation to have had treaties with Tibet and witnessed its status, is crucial.

As late as 1950, the British government considered Tibetan 'autonomy' to amount to de facto independence and treated Tibet accordingly. Britain supported Resolution 1723 at the UN in 1961, which called for the right of self-determination for Tibet to be respected. It is to be hoped that the Foreign Secretary will assure the Dalai Lama of the Government's renewed support for Tibet: it has a moral obligation to do so. Only when Britain has spoken out will the Dalai Lama cease to haunt us.

Yours faithfully,

JOHN BILLINGTON

Repton, Derbyshire

10 May

(Photograph omitted)

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