Free Tibet condemns Labour front bencher’s “propaganda gift” at Chinese Tibet forum

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Peer reportedly acclaims economic development and happiness of Tibetan people; implies media bias Lord Neil Forbes Davidson, a Labour Party spokesman in House of Lords (1), is reported in Chinese state media to have made comments supportive of China’s role in Tibet at the Fourth Forum on Development of Tibet, Tibet, this week. According to reports (which have not been independently confirmed), he stated at the Chinese government-sponsored event that the “Chinese government has done a great job in developing Tibet to the current stage, where people live happily” (2). Lord Davidson is quoted as saying: "Many western reports are written by enthusiasts of the Dalai Lama. And they may feel uncomfortable when their presumptions or assumptions are challenged. It is uncomfortable and expensive to have their prejudice challenged." The report also states that Lord Davidson said Western media did not report Tibet because travel there was too “costly” (2). International media are banned from Tibet by the Chinese government. Free Tibet director, Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said: “We hope that the comments attributed to Lord Davidson significantly misrepresent his contribution at this event. If the reports are accurate, Lord Davidson should have acquainted himself with the facts before regurgitating China’s propaganda on Tibet. Economic development in Tibet is far from what it seems from the window of a car or a plush meeting room in Lhasa. The UN Economic, Cultural and Social Rights committee recently issued a report noting that child malnutrition in China occurs mainly in Tibet (3). China's dubious figures do not tell the story of how Chinese immigration has shut Tibetans out of Tibet’s economic development. Its heavy investment in transport infrastructure is designed to facilitate the export to China of Tibet’s natural resources. China’s interest is in what it can take from Tibet, not what it can put in. “The Tibetan people are not ‘happy’. More than 125 of them have set themselves on fire in the last three years to protest China’s policies and rule (4). There are constant protests against unemployment, mining, environmental destruction and the suppression of Tibet’s culture. Events like this constitute a key part of China’s international charm offensive on occupied-Tibet. If these reports are true, there is no excuse for Lord Davidson’s ignorance and naivety in giving a propaganda gift to the Chinese regime. If he has, in addition, chosen to stay silent on China’s oppression and human rights abuses in Tibet, the Labour Party should take him off the front bench.” Lord Davidson is a practising QC and according to Wikipedia, served on the human rights committee of the Faculty of Advocates (5). The website for his chambers reports that he has expertise on China and human rights (6). -ends- Contact: Alistair Currie, campaigns and media manager, Free Tibet T: +44 (0)207 324 4605 M: +44(0)780 165 4011 E: Notes for Editors (1) Labour front bench spokesperson in House of Lords on Advocate General, Scotland and treasury (2) Chinese media reports: Direct quotation at (3) United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Concluding observations on the second periodic report of China, including Hong Kong, China, and Macao, China, 13 June 2014 (4) See (5),_Baron_Davidson_of_Glen_Clova (6)