A prominent British Lord, an Austrian Parliamentarian and the director of the Confucius Institute in Vienna were among foreigners to attend a conference in Lhasa this week that endorsed hostile propaganda against the Dalai Lama and asserted the “happiness” of Tibetans under Chinese rule.

The Chinese state media circulated a ‘Lhasa Consensus’ about the happiness and satisfaction of Tibetans yesterday (August 14) as news emerged that paramilitary troops opened fire on unarmed Tibetans in eastern Tibet two days ago, seriously injuring at least ten Tibetans.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) has raised questions with individual foreign participants of the conference in Lhasa on August 12-13. Kai Mueller, Executive Director of ICT-Germany said: “We are appalled by the participation of foreign individuals in a conference which aims to distort the truth about the situation in Tibet and completely ignores the assessments of UN representatives, governments and independent NGOs on the situation in Tibet. It will do no favors to the credibility of those participating, and it raises serious questions for the political parties and academic institutions that the foreign delegates represent.”

The ‘Lhasa Consensus’, produced during the 2014 Forum on the Development of Tibet’ organized by the Chinese authorities, stated that: “Participants notice that Tibet enjoys sound economic growth, social harmony, deep-rooted Tibetan culture and beautiful natural scenery, and the people enjoy a happy life.” The ‘Consensus’ also attacked both the Dalai Lama and international media coverage of Tibet, stating that: “Participants unanimously agree that what they have actually seen in Tibet differs radically from what the 14th Dalai [Lama] and the Dalai clique have said. The Dalai clique’s statements on Tibet are distorted and incorrect. […] Many Western media reports are biased and have led to much misunderstanding.” (Full text is here: http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/xinhua-news-agency/140813/full-text-the-lhasa-consensus).

The International Campaign for Tibet in Germany wrote to the Social Democrat Party in the Austrian parliament following the participation of Peter Wittmann, a member of the Austrian National Council, to ask whether the party supports the ‘Lhasa Consensus’ and whether Mr Wittmann, who is chairman of the constitutional committee of the Austrian Parliament, was attending in official capacity. ICT has also contacted the University of Vienna to enquire whether it supports the ‘Consensus’ due to the attendance of Richard Trappl, Director of the Confucius Institute at the University.

In the UK, journalists have sought to ask Labour front bench spokesperson Lord Neil Davidson of Glen Clova, Shadow Advocate General for Scotland, about the views he expressed at the conference, which counter those of his political party. The Chinese state media reported that Lord Davidson agreed with a view expressed at the conference that journalism in the Western media feeds off disinformation from the Dalai Lama to misrepresent the situation in Tibet, and that Lord Davidson added: “The western media merely write people’s happiness in China’s Tibet and know little about the type of development taking place in Tibet.” (source: China Tibet Online, “Biased western media coverage on Tibet denounced on forum in Lhasa,” posted on August 12, 2014).

The UK Labour Party says it remains “deeply concerned about the human rights situation” in Tibet. British journalists have not been able to reach Lord Davidson for comment. Lord Davidson is a practicing barrister in the UK who served on the human rights committee of the Faculty of Advocates.

On the same day that the conference opened in Lhasa, ten Tibetans were seriously injured after paramilitary police opened fire on a crowd of peaceful protestors, who were calling for the release of a respected village leader. (https://savetibet.org/ten-tibetans-injured-after-police-open-fire-in-kardze-tibet/). Since 2009, more than 130 Tibetans have set themselves on fire in a political climate of intense oppression. The Chinese government has responded to the self-immolations – two of which happened in Lhasa – by intensifying the military buildup in Tibet and strengthening the policies and approaches that are the root cause of the acts, such as aggressive campaigns against loyalty to the Dalai Lama.

It was not clear whether all foreign participants had signed up to the ‘Lhasa Consensus’ as has been indicated by the Chinese state media. When asked by a journalist, one participant, the former mayor of Christchurch, New Zealand, Sir Bob Parker, said: “Not at all. I’m aware that the statement was made but I certainly haven’t signed up to it. I think a number of people who were there were a little surprised to hear about that statement.” (http://www.bbc.com/news/blogs-china-blog-28804216). Other foreign participants at the conference included Pat Breen, chairman of Irish Parliament Joint Committee of Foreign Affairs & Trade Robert John Parker, chairman of Huaxin International Ltd from New Zealand, Kondo Shoichi, secretary general of the Nonpartisan Sino-Japan Friendship Parliamentarians’ Union and former Japanese senior vice-minister of the environment; Bob Parker, former mayor of Christchurch, New Zealand; N. Ram, chairman and publisher of the Hindu Group of Newspapers and Kulasri Kariyawasam, secretary of Sri Lanka China Social and Cultural Cooperation.