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Dr Pita Sharples: The situation in Tibet

Notice Of Motion:

Dr Pita Sharples The situation in Tibet

Tuesday 18th March 2008

Madam Speaker, three years ago, in July 2005, when the chairman of China's National People's Congress arrived here at Parliament, he did so by first snubbing the official powhiri that had been arranged in his honour.

The explanation put forward by then advisor to the Prime Minister, Mike Munro, was that the presence of the Tibetan flag being proudly flown by a lone protestor would cause gross offence to the Chinese visitors.

Unsaid, was the fact that the decision to boycott our traditional protocols, the powhiri to welcome Wu Bangguo to Aotearoa, might also cause gross offence to the tangata whenua.

Unsaid, was the fact that the refusal to recognise the Tibetan flag might also cause gross offence to the people of Tibet.

It is a matter of priorities.

Today we are uniting as a House, to express our concern about the fatal riots that have taken place in Lhasa.

The National Party is alarmed and troubled. The Prime Minister is deeply concerned.

But do we have the backbone to do more than express our concerns?

Do we have the backbone as a Parliament to make a strong statement which challenges China's crackdown on the demonstration of Tibetan resistance?

The demonstrations taking place now in Lhasa, have been led by Buddhist monks, and supported by crowds of everyday citizens.

The results have been devastating - BBC sources report at least eighty corpses have been counted, while China suggests the death toll is but ten.

But this is not a guerrilla war, a battle of Terrorists.

This is an action of peaceful defiance, supported by the international leader of peace, the Dalai Lama. The man who won the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize has now become a figure of public attack from Chinese authorities.

The Dalai Lama has spoken out loudly and consistently, calling for an inquiry into what he describes as cultural genocide, a 'rule of terror'.

What is the nature of the action which the Chinese authorities are seeking to suppress?

The Dalai Lama's command to the people has been "to address the long-simmering resentment of the Tibetan people through dialogue".

Dialogue! It is hardly the battle term for a pre-meditated all-out assault.

What we do now in Aotearoa, will be critical to how this dialogue evolves. Do we ignore the analysis of the Dalai Lama that this is a cultural genocide? Do we support the Chinese officials' declaration in calling for a people's war?

We are in an unique position to exert pressure.

The world is watching us as our nation negotiates a free trade agreement with China.

We can use this bargaining power to advance the path of peace that our nation is known for.

We must stand tall in promoting the peaceful resistance that was taken: * in 1835 by Moriori in the Chatham Islands; * in 1881, when the people of Taranaki refused to fight at Parihaka, instead drawing on the peaceful traditions of passive resistance; * the international reputation we gained when former Prime Minister David Lange stood against nuclear ships in the 1980s; * the protests against nuclear testing in Mururoa in 1985 and the 1996 case taken to the World Court at the Hague.

We must use this history and this tradition of the non-violent resolution of conflict to our greatest influence.

We, in the Maori Party, bring the attention of the House to the call for fair trade, not free trade; for ethical investment where human rights are not sacrificed for commercial imperatives.

Aotearoa sits at the crossroads, in the way in which we approach this trade deal with China.

We have always considered the essential value of Treaty of Waitangi principles in the negotiation and confirmation of any trade agreement.

Such principles may lead us, logically to ask:

* What are the impacts on New Zealand workers and businesses? * Are workers overseas exploited to benefit New Zealand economy? * Are there impacts on indigenous peoples among trading partners?

The point being, at this fragile state of play, we need to consider the wider human rights context in which the trading partners are negotiating.

Is the goal for a lucrative trade deal with China worth selling our soul for?

We must speak out about the brutal 'people's war' in which Chinese authorities are promoting as necessary to, and I quote: "expose the hideous face of the Dalai clique to broad daylight".

When this so-called hideous face was last in Aotearoa, in June of last year, he was welcomed with a powhiri befitting the most distinguished of visitors.

He did not choose to drive past, to snub the mana whenua as they laid the foundations for his korero in the Vector Arena in Auckland.

He responded to our welcome with true humility. In fact his graciousness was even present at the steps of Parliament, when he responded to my colleague Hone Harawira's spontaneous haka with characteristic warmth and delight.

The message of his Holiness in his visit last year, was one of compassion. When he was asked the question, how do we stop abuse and violence his response was startling in its simplicity: "One random act of kindness at a time."

The violence and riots that are being committed against people of prayer, people of discipline, of tradition, concern us all.

The Free Trade Agreements offer us an excellent opportunity to challenge the Chinese Government's human rights record.

We must build on the platform of peace that the people of Aotearoa are so proud of.

We must take bold steps to demonstrate our support in the rights of the Tibetan people to self-determination.

We must be brave on the world stage, in calling on the Chinese authorities to engage in peaceful and meaningful dialogue, which will ensure the protection of Tibetan culture. The Maori Party calls on this Parliament to demonstrate one random act of courage today, in speaking out against the violence which began in Tibet's main city, Lhasa. We cannot be mute while the world watches on.

ENDS

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