During a recent meeting with colleagues on how to consolidate the progress of promoting Tibetan national freedom someone raised a view, that of all the exiled Tibetan communities, Britains qualifies for the dubious honor of being the least vocal in terms of actively supporting Tibet’s rightful independence. This challenging assertion was balanced by a recognition that within that country exists much Tibet-related activism. While acknowledging the good work that folks there do, our critical friend countered that it was not the absence of action that was troubling, but the nature of it, in particular its message. Elaborating further it was contended that despite Britain being home to a number of Tibet groups, two of whom have publicly stated objectives of Tibetan independence, when it came to political protest and lobbying there was no determined, collective or unified effort to convey Tibet’s true cause of national freedom.
Evidence of such a worrying situation is claimed to exist within the annual March 10 protests and various public statements, issued by what is loosely called a ‘Tibet Coalition’, an over-arching body that seeks to unify efforts of various UK-Tibet groups. These, so the claims assert, regularly avoid mention of Tibetan independence, at rallys banners and placards convey more diluted and less politically emphatic slogans, often more ‘rights-based’ in content. While press releases, issued by that body, ommit reference to Tibet’s political struggle. Such were the concerns raised and it must be noted, when viewing available material, it is not an entirely unfair assessment, there does within Britain’s Tibet-organizations appear to be an active unwillingness to forcefully protest in support of Tibetan independence.
What then of those groups that on paper at least are committed to Tibet’s national freedom? Why are they not openly demanding Tibetan independence? The Students For Free Tibet-UK and Tibetan Youth UK both appear to be strongly committed to the goal of an independent Tibetan nation, yet their voice seems to be overuled and marginalized in favor of promoting so-called ‘meaningful autonomy’ and focussing on human rights (valuable and needed though that is). An influential component within Britain’s Tibet scene is the Tibet Society, an organization which at one stage held as an objective, independence for Tibet (it is unclear if their membership has agreed to an amendment to remove that key aim). It seems to play a determining role in shaping the nature, profile and content of Tibet related campaigns and has fairly close links to Parliament, administering an annual Lobby of that institution, as with previous actions this year’s event failed to offer a single word in support of Tibet’s independence. It’s key aim being to: “To write to the Foreign Secretary, reminding him of the British government’s commitment to make progress towards meaningful autonomy for Tibet…” (Emphasis Added)
Much has been written over the years about this organization, that while its charitable arm carries out welcome work bringing relief to Tibetans in exile, it has not been able to prevent questions regarding what some have suggested is an overly close relationship with Britain’s Foreign Office. Some of the Tibet Society’s former executives were previously either Ambassadors or junior Ministers at that Department, speculation continues as to what (if any) connection currently exists. Does such influence matter in regard to the presentation of Tibet’s cause within Britain? Most certainly due to the important consideration that Britain’s Foreign Office has one prime duty with respect to China; to maintain, encourage and protect British commercial and political interests. Within that context it is no friend of Tibet’s independence and is wholly unsupportive of an assertive campaign for Tibetan independence, it is such an intolerance that has fuelled the suggestion that within the United Kingdom the Tibet movement is corrosively undermined and manipulated by individuals sympathetic to the national goals and orthodoxy of the Foreign Office. Is this perfidious control behind the consistent failure of Tibet-related bodies within Britain to represent Tibet’s true cause? Partly maybe, however there is another pressure that exerts a stifling influence, that of the exiled Tibetan Administration, which shares the same dismissive arrogance on the subject of Tibet’s independence as the Foreign Office. It is engaged in a campaign to undermine, vilify and censor those who demand Tibet’s rightful independence, actively promoting breathtaking compromises with China’s regime, to secure some form of ‘autonomy’, in opposition to the struggle waged by its compatriots in occupied Tibet, the Tibetan leadership seeks to control the political activities of exiled Tibetan communities and those of its supporters. It regards independence for Tibet as an irritating inconvenience that undermines its appeasement of China to reach a negotiated ‘solution’ and therefore is unsleeping in extending a censorial influence across the Tibetan movement. One only has to note the recent disgraceful incident in Washington DC in which the President of the Tibetan Youth Congress and colleagues were censored, by a fellow Tibetan loyal to the policies of the exiled Tibetan Administration. See Here
With such leverage is it any wonder that the message of Tibet’s national independence is so invisible within Britain? Is it purely coincidence also that there is no Regional Tibetan Youth Congress, an organization dedicated to the restoration of an independent Tibet, in the United Kingdom? The establishment of a regional branch would be a very welcome development indeed and give voice to the struggle of Tibetans inside occupied Tibet, who strive, not for the ‘meaningful autonomy’ featured in the Parliamentary lobby organized by the ‘Tibet Coalition’, but for their nation’s just independence. Word of warning to any considering launching a UK based RTYC be independent, strong, politically assertive and above all cautious with those who appear to be supporting your country!