Nun urges UK help on Tibet rights

London, England - Ngawang Sangdrol, the young Tibetan nun who spent more than a decade in prison, has called on the UK government to do more to improve human rights in Tibet.

First imprisoned at 13 years old, and released in 2002, she told the BBC News website that the human rights situation in Tibet was getting worse.

She wants the UK to use its upcoming EU presidency to get a special EU rapporteur for Tibet appointed.

She met Foreign Office Minister Ian Pearson on Thursday.

Ms Sangdrol, 28, also wants the issue of human rights in Tibet to be discussed at the highest possible level in government.

She acknowledged that trade with China was necessary, but said it should not take prominence over human rights.

New investment

"The persecution of Tibetans by China over the last 40-50 years, it's quite a well known thing to the public, but recently there's a change in the strategy by China, because they are developing economically," she said.

Beijing is pouring billions of dollars of investment into Tibet, but Ms Sangdrol said this was only to the benefit of the Chinese.

Critics point out that this investment brings with it a flood of Han Chinese immigration and the destruction of Tibet's cultural heritage.

"The human rights situation is deteriorating because they want to eradicate the Tibetan race," said Ms Sangdrol, who follow news about Tibet from her home in the US, where she moved to following her release.

Ms Sangdrol's crime at 13 was to shout "Independence for Tibet" and "Long live the Dalai Lama" during a protest in Lhasa.

Her continual defiance against the authorities won her extended prison sentences, amounting to 23 years in total, although they were suddenly commuted three years ago ahead of a visit by then Chinese President Jiang Zemin to George Bush's Texan ranch.