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Locke calls for stronger support for Tibetans


Locke calls for stronger support for Tibetans in hour of need

The Green Party will be supporting this motion, although we would have liked it to be much stronger and clearly taken the side of the Tibetan people against their Chinese oppressors.

The Green Party is concerned at our Government's double standard. When the Burmese military suppressed Buddhist protests last year, the Prime Minister said it was it was 'simply unacceptable for peaceful protesters to be shot, beaten or arrested."

But when it is the Chinese government doing the same thing in Lhasa, she simply calls on both sides to show restraint and for the authorities to act carefully and proportionately.

We want the Prime Minister to speak the truth about the cause of the protests in Lhasa and other cities, - that is 50 years of denial of the rights of the Tibetan people and ruthless suppression of any dissent.

This is the Tibetan people's hour of need. Thousands of Tibetans are being rounded up for exercising their basic right to protest. Today the Tibetan people need a fearless public advocate, not those who will mince words.

New Zealand may be a small country, but as we have seen on nuclear issues, what we say does have impact - when it is clear and unequivocal.

So far we have been much weaker than other states. The French Foreign Minister, Bernard Kouchner, has talked about 'strong condemnation coming from all the European Council".

New Zealand's foreign policy is at a crossroads. Do we support a people whose human rights are being crushed by dictatorial state? Or do we go soft in the interests of a preferential trade deal?

In the 1980s we were labelled the mouse that roared when we stood up against the nuclear policies of the United States.

Are we now the mouse that only squeaks, when the Tibetan people cry out for help against the Chinese superpower?

Should we not at least show some of the bravery of those Tibetan monks who went out into the streets last week, knowing that their probable fate would be years in a Chinese jail?

This is not the time for wishy-washy words of diplomat speak; it is a time for clear, passionate support for the Tibetan people.

We must support the Dalai Lama's efforts to achieve genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within China - not the fake autonomy we see now where Chinese settlers are pouring into Tibet and controlling its economic, political and cultural life.

The anger of the Tibetan protesters last week was fully understandable. It was an explosion of pent up resentment at decades of denial of their national rights, and the swamping of their culture.

The Green Party believes we can't separate the oppression of the Tibetan people from the preferential trade agreement New Zealand is about to sign with China.

The low Chinese wages that will make it difficult for New Zealand firms to compete under a free trade agreement are the result, at least in part, of the lack of human rights and labour rights - in particular of those Chinese people and the Tibetan people. Human rights should also be factor in whom we choose among countries to do a preferential trade agreement with. There would be eyebrows raised if we entered such a preferential agreement with Robert Mugabe or the Burmese junta.

I think, in the light of the events in Tibet it would be wise to postpone the signing of any free trade agreement at least until after the Olympics to give room for the New Zealand Government to engage in a public debate on the role of human rights, and particularly what is happening in Tibet, in our going ahead with as such an agreement. It would allow a spotlight to be put on Tibet in the lead up to the Olympic Games and during them.

It is great to read in the Christchurch Press this morning that Mark Todd our 2 gold medal Olympian has said that he may well protest in some form if selected for the Olympic team. I am sure it would be a very dignified protest that he would carry out.

There is a huge reservoir of support for the Tibetan people, and I think that the Government and many parties in this House are misjudging that by using vague words and not talking openly, directly, and in a condemnatory fashion about what is happening in Tibet today. We owe it to the Tibetan people to do more than this motion does.

ends

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