UK public: Cameron should raise Tibet on China visit

Friday, 29 November 2013

Opinion poll shows majority say he would be right to raise human rights abuses
An ICM poll commissioned by Free Tibet shows that the majority of British adults believe it would be right for UK Prime Minister David Cameron to raise human rights in Tibet on his state visit to China next week (1). Only 10% thought it would be wrong to do so.

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 7% considered human rights as less important than trade relations.
Free Tibet Director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“George Osborne may not have stood up for human rights and Tibet during his recent visit, but it’s absolutely clear that the British public expect Mr Cameron to do better. He was willing to raise human rights in Sri Lanka just days ago and he needs to show that Britain’s principles are not dependent on the wealth of his host. It’s clear from this poll that only a handful of British people believe trade with China is more important than human rights in Tibet and that they expect Mr Cameron to act like a statesman, not a salesman.
“The Chinese government thinks that a combination of money and threats can ensure the silence of UK politicians. Mr Cameron needs to respect the views of the British people and prove that wrong.
The results of this poll are his mandate to show China, the world and the people of Britain that his government is willing to stand up for justice and human rights in Tibet.”

Next week’s state visit follows a period of strained relationships between the UK and China after Mr Cameron and the Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg held a private meeting with the Dalai Lama in 2012. China responded angrily to the meeting and has subsequently claimed that a British admission of “mishandling” the issue of Tibet led to a thawing in the relationship and paved the way for trade deals between the two countries (2).
Earlier this month Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne and London Mayor Boris Johnson visited China on a trade mission. Mr Osborne refused to be drawn on the subject of human rights, stating:
“We have to respect the fact that it is a deep and ancient civilisation that is tackling its own problems and going about it in the way it thinks is appropriate. We can point out where we would do things differently, but I think we do need to show some respect for that.” (3)
Last year, two UK government ministers sent a private letter to Mr Cameron, objecting to instructions not to meet the Dalai Lama in a subsequent visit he made to the UK. In the letter, they stated that the prohibition on ministers meeting the Dalia Lama was “tantamount to saying that British foreign policy on Tibet is whatever China wants it to be” (4).
For more information or comment, contact Free Tibet campaigns and media officer Alistair Currie:
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605
Notes for editors

Please cite Free Tibet if you use information from this poll.
(1) ICM interviewed a random sample of 1,940 adults aged 18+ in GB online between 27 - 28th November 2013. 

Surveys were conducted across the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults.  ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules.  Further information at

Full results:


Q1. For you, is protecting human rights in Tibet more important, less important or equally as important as maintaining good trade relations with China?

More important: 25%
Equally as important: 44%
Less important: 7%
Neither are important: 6%
Don’t know: 19%

Q2. Do you think it would be right or wrong for David Cameron to raise the issue of human rights in Tibet with the Chinese leadership on his state visit to China this year?

Right: 58%
Wrong: 10%
Don’t know: 32%
(2) Bloomberg News, 17 October 2013

(3) The Scotsman, 14 October 2013

(4) Daily Telegraph, 3 December 2012