Tuesday 3 January 2012

Correspondance With James Gray

Original email

Dear Mr. Gray,
We enjoyed reading your article in a recent Gazette and Herald after your trip to India entitled 'Let's strive to help Tibet overcome it's troubles'. As a Tibet Support Group, and with members in your constituency, we are greatly appreciative of your support and your many years of concern in this specific area. It is of great value that you will certainly do anything that you can, therefore with this sentiment we urge you to attend the debate in the House of Commons on Tibet on Wednesday 7th December. This will be the first debate on Tibet in Westminster since April 2008.
The debate will provide an opportunity for you to raise concerns about issues facing Tibet and ask questions of the Foreign Office and the British government. In particular, we urge you to call on our government to make a strong, robust statement of concern on China's repressive policies in Tibet.
The debate comes at a time of increasing repression in Tibet which, this year, has led to Tibetans taking the tragic action of setting themselves on fire. The most recent, a 12th immolation, took place last Thursday in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
With you in your support,
Bath District Tibet Support Group

Response via OCR:


7th December


Thank you for your email December with regard to Tibet.
I am extremely concerned about this matter and I can assure you that the Government is too. The Foreign and Commonwealth Ofïice (FCO) has urged the Chinese government to work with local monasteries and communities to resolve the grievances which have led to these desperate actions.
The FCO’s Human Rights Command Paper makes clear the UK’s concems regarding the human rights situation in China and Tibet. The consistent position has been that long term stability can only be achieved through respect for human rights and genuine autonomy for Tibet within the framework ofthe Chinese constitution. The Government believes that meaningful dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese authorities is the best way to make this happen.
I am aware that the FCO is actively monitoring this issue and raising it with Chinese Authorities. Foreign Office Minister Jeremy Browne MP wrote to the Chinese Ambassador earlier this year raising his concerns regarding the situation at the Kirti Monastery and officials have also raised their concerns with the Chinese Embassy in London and the Ministry of Foreign in Beijing. British Embassy in China also make regular visits to Tibetan areas. and l am have done so recently.
Unfortunately I was not able to attend the meeting in the House today as I was
involved in a Parliamentary Committee. I am however a member of the All Party Parliamentary Party for Tibet and closely follow these matters.


Dear Mr Gray,

thank you for your letter of the 7th Dec, I too am mindful of the efforts of FCO Minister Jeremy Brown MP and the efforts of the British Embassy staff with respect to the Tibetan issues.

I am also aware that you have not signed the EDM 2327 on the self immolations that have recently occurred in Tibet (letter to XXXXX 7th Dec who has passed it to me) and that your reasons for this include
  • uncertain as to it helping the Tibetan cause,
  • you make the point that self immolation is 'fundamentally against all Buddhist beliefs'
  • you believe that the EDM publicises the self immolation action.
Please note that the EDM does not encompass an endorsement of self immolation as the words start 'That this House is greatly saddened by the disturbing news of 10 incidents of self-immolation...' Can we not agree that it is sad that these monks and nuns have been driven to take their own life? These people must be faced with the prospect of not only loosing their land, culture and identity but also not being allowed to practice their religion due to the controls imposed by the Chinese authorities. Having lived in a functioning democracy all our lives we cannot begin to understand what it means to be under severe government repression.

For my part it is essential that independent observers are sent to Tibet, for which the EDM calls for, along with other action.

Can I also assure you that self immolation is not 'fundamentally against all Buddhist beliefs', a misunderstanding that was also iterated by a recent Chinese Embassy letter to the Guardian. Indeed Buddhism, particularly Mahayana (or Madhyamaka philosophy) which is the primary form of Buddhism in Tibet, provides no absolutes to 'believe' in. A central tenet of Buddhism is the recognition of the impermanent and unpredictable nature of reality. Thus there can be no absolute set of laws that will work in all circumstances. When a monk or nun take a vow to not kill, they do so with the knowledge that there may be certain extreme circumstances that require killing. The vow would be broken if they do not act in accordance with such extreme circumstances.

Perhaps extreme circumstances have been found in Tibet and like Vietnamese monks before them, they have found that the only solution is provided by the ultimate act of renunciation.

With Kind regards

Bath Dist Tibet Support Group

Response via OCR:


14th December 2011

 Thank you for your email of December with regard to Tibet.
There is no stronger advocate than I for the rights of the downtrodden people of Tibet, but that is not to presume that you and I would necessarily agree about tactics for raising it. I am particularly unhappy about publicity surrounding monkish self-immolation.
I bow to your wisdom with regard to Buddhist theology although I was quoting His Holiness the Dalai Lama directly in that regard since he made plain to us in a private audience that he most certainly did not approve of self-immolations.
My concern is that by seeking to use suicide as a means towards the end of achieving greater human rights in Tibet we may inadvertently perhaps be encouraging those very suicides.
I fear therefore that I will not be signing EDM 2327 nor was I prepared to be a co-signatory to the All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet’s recent letter to the Guardian.

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