Tibet

Oral Answers to Questions — International Development – in the House of Commons at 11:30 am on 11 July 2007.

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Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office) 11:30, 11 July 2007

what support his Department has provided for projects working with the indigenous people of Tibet.

Photo of Shahid Malik Shahid Malik Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

We are providing £500,000 a year to support Save the Children's work in Tibet. The support runs from 2005 to 2010. The programme seeks to improve the economic and social status of children in Tibet, by enhancing their rights to education, health care and basic protection.

Photo of Norman Baker Norman Baker Shadow Minister (Cabinet Office)

I congratulate the Under-Secretary on his appointment and wish him well in his post. I am pleased to hear of the work going on in Tibet, but will he assure me that the moneys will help Tibetan people? As he may know, the Chinese authorities operate, effectively, a policy of apartheid, discriminating against Tibetans in education, employment and health. What steps will he take to ensure that the money allocated gets to the Tibetans, rather than being siphoned off by the Chinese?

Photo of Shahid Malik Shahid Malik Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

May I formally acknowledge the considerable energy directed at Tibet by the hon. Gentleman? There is considerable investment in China in the run-up to the Olympics. The opening of Tibet is creating more economic opportunities for all those resident in Tibet, including the indigenous Tibetans. Economic growth in Tibet over the last three to five years has been above the national average and the extension of the railway has created a tourism boom from which Tibetans benefit. However, anecdotal evidence suggests that there are inequalities within Tibet. The hon. Gentleman has raised those issues and issues of human rights on numerous occasions. At the last UK/China human rights dialogue on 5 February, many of these concerns were raised and we handed over a list of individual cases of concern to the Chinese Government, including the names of Tibetan prisoners.

Photo of Lindsay Hoyle Lindsay Hoyle Labour, Chorley

Will my hon. Friend ensure that when these projects go ahead, we will also enter into talks with the Chinese on the self-governance of Tibet by its people and on an end to the illegal occupation?

Photo of Shahid Malik Shahid Malik Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

We are constantly speaking to the Chinese on human rights. We recognise Tibet as autonomous but having a special relationship within China. In February of this year and September of last, the Prime Minister raised issues and concerns about Tibet. Through our programme in Tibet, we are doing some work, but we also have considerable investment in China itself to help health and education programmes that will impact across the piece, including within Tibet.

Photo of David Simpson David Simpson Shadow Spokesperson (Education), Shadow Spokesperson (International Development), Shadow Spokesperson (Transport)

I welcome the Under-Secretary to his new post and wish him well. Will he take time from his busy schedule to meet the Foreign Office to discuss China's policy in Tibet and, in particular, safeguards for religious freedom?

Photo of Shahid Malik Shahid Malik Parliamentary Under-Secretary, Department for International Development

I would be happy to do that. We believe that religious freedom is a fundamental right for everyone in the world. I would also be happy to discuss the issue with the hon. Gentleman.