A YouGov poll commissioned by campaign group Free Tibet on the eve of the state visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping has found that 69% of respondents agree with the Dalai Lama’s comment that UK policy towards China is about “money, money, money.” Just 8% disagreed with the Tibetan spiritual leader’s full statement, made in an interview in September: “Money, money, money. That’s what this is about. Where is morality?”
The poll also shows that seven in ten (69%) believe that protecting human rights in Tibet is more important than or as important as maintaining good trade relations with China. Only 14% considered human rights in Tibet to be less important than trade relations.
The poll arrives amidst widespread concern that the UK is unwilling to risk provoking Beijing’s ire with public support for Tibet or human rights. No members of the government met the Dalai Lama on his trip to the UK this September and on his recent trip to China, Chancellor George Osborne refused to be drawn on human rights in public statements, winning praise from Chinese state media for “not finding fault over the human rights issue.” Instead, Mr Osborne declared that it was Britain’s goal to be China’s “best partner in the West.”
Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“Just last week in a meeting at the Foreign Office, Free Tibet was told that commercial interests do not drive UK policy on China. Our poll confirms just how few people outside Whitehall find that claim credible. The UK has sunk so low in its desperation to curry favour with Beijing that David Cameron isn’t so much rolling out the red carpet as lying under it.
“British policy on Tibet and human rights in China is shameful. Human rights defenders in Tibet and China are paying with their lives and freedom for standing up to China’s government while this government is unwilling to stand up to Beijing at all. The Dalai Lama asked ‘where is morality?’. Right now, it isn’t found in Downing St and the British people know it.”
Tibet campaigners will be staging demonstrations throughout Xi Jinping’s visit, including at Downing St on 21 October as Xi meets Mr Cameron. The will carry a large banner saying Cameron: has China bought your silence? Speak out on Tibet. A digital “advan” will also follow the president in London, carrying a Tibetan flag and a separate image of David Cameron gagged by a Chinese flag, saying Warning: Chinese president in town. Don’t mention Tibet or human rights.
By Alistair Currie