Apr 02, 2008

Tibet: EP Condemns China & Stands by Dalai Lama

Active ImageThe European Parliament dismissed China’s allegations of a Tibetan ‘clique’ with statements of support from across the House.

Below is a press release issued by the European Parliament:

In an introductory statement, European Parliament Hans-Gert Pöttering told the House "the events in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, and in other Chinese cities since 10 March this year are deeply disturbing".  He added "We condemn all forms of violence and the disproportionate use of military and police.  We condemn the deaths of people who were acting peacefully".

Mr. Pöttering went on "We express our solidarity with the Dalai Lama", saying we cannot allow him to be linked to terrorism or demonised. He called on the Beijing authorities "to negotiate with the Dalai Lama and, while respecting the territorial integrity of China, to reach an understanding that respects and guarantees the cultural and religious identity of the Tibetan people".

The Dalai Lama has accepted an invitation to address the EP in December as part of the Year of Intercultural Dialogue. However, in view of the current situation, said the EP President to applause from the House, "I am sure you will agree he is welcome to come to the European Parliament at any time".

Turning to EU-China relations and the Olympic Games, President Pöttering declared "Dialogue and cooperation between the European Union and China are in our mutual interest.  China is a great nation, with which we want to cooperate in partnership."

He stressed that "We want the Olympic Games to be a success".  "But this will require respect for the cultural and religious identity of the Tibetan people and free and fair reporting before and after the games. It is therefore to be condemned that journalists and correspondents have been expelled from Tibet".

Mr Pöttering then said that while he himself was due to attend the opening ceremony of the games in August [2008], "Every responsible politician must ask the question, whether he can take part in the opening ceremony if the Chinese leadership does not seek dialogue and compromise".

"We wish to contribute to an outcome whereby the world's athletes can meet in fair and free competitions in Beijing. But our values and our self-respect will not allow us to surrender our principles. We in the European Parliament have a special responsibility in this regard."

On behalf of the Council, State Secretary for European Affairs Janez Lenarčič said first of all listed the meetings and talks that have taken place between EU representatives and the Chinese authorities since the violence erupted in Tibet.  He then called for both sides to show restraint and try to "establish a constructive dialogue.   The Council hoped China would allow independent media to re-enter Tibet soon.

According to the minister, a recent meeting of EU sports ministers voted against a boycott of the Olympic Games, believing instead that the games can help promote human rights.

He concluded by telling MEPs that the Slovenian foreign minister has asked his Chinese counterpart to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama and to release all peaceful protestors.

Benita Ferrero-Waldner European Commissioner for External Relations said that the debate was timely as EU foreign Ministers were due to discuss this soon.  The Commission, she said, was "deeply concerned about the unrest and the violence, violence is never justifiable".  Commissioner Ferrero-Waldner called on the Chinese authorities to exercise maximum restraint and not to use force. She also called for independent media access in Tibet and welcomed the announcement from the Chinese of an upcoming media visit on 26-28 March [2008] which would include international correspondents.  The Commissioner called for substantial dialogue between the Chinese and the Tibetans.

The International Community had always respected the territorial integrity of China. Human rights are a matter of international concern and not solely internal matter, the Commissioner said. People had the right to demonstrate peacefully.

The Olympic Games, the Commissioner said, are not a political event.  She called for the event to be carried out in respect of the Olympic spirit which included the freedom of speech and freedom of the media.


Political group speakers

For the EPP-ED József SZÁJER (HU)spoke of the Olympic Games as 'a symbol of peace and understanding' and stated that 'we demand a peaceful dialogue on the reconciliation and autonomy of Tibet.'  He welcomed the statement of President Pöttering, pointing out that 'we should use all our means to press the unwilling Chinese authorities to stop violence and respect human and minority rights.'  He posed the question: 'how can athletes from the whole world come together and compete in joy and harmony, while at the same time, the State that is hosting the games is killing its own citizens?'  Mr Szájer concluded by stating that 'this is not the time for us to boycott the Olympic Games', in particular with just 5 months to go.  He did however point out that 'we should be quite unequivocal about the demands that we put forward.'

Pasqualina NAPOLETANO (IT) for the PES began by stating that 'I hope it's going to be useful to raise the voice of the European Parliament' in this respect.  She emphasised that the request of the Dalai Lama for an independent commission to go to Tibet should be acted upon to 'shed light' on events there and that a negotiated solution should be found which would respect the existing UN resolutions.  With regard to the Dalai Lama in particular, Ms Napoletano pointed out that 'the political role of the Dalai Lama cannot be substituted' and that he is the 'guarantor of balance.'  She said that 'if the Chinese really want peace, they must accept [his] role.'

In conclusion, Ms Napoletano stated that the isolation of China will not help the Tibetan cause or human rights in general.  She called on the Council to 'shoulder [its] responsibility ..[..].. we do not need a gesture', she said, we need a coherent policy.

Marco PANNELLA (IT) for the ALDE group reminded his colleagues of the Europe which existed 70 years ago - the 'cowardly, anti-liberal Europe' of fatherlands which said they 'weren't going to die for Danzig.'  Mr Pannella asked his colleagues to read Spinelli again and to compare that manifesto with the words of the Dalai Lama.  He pointed out that 'we in Europe are being cowardly ... we're losing the sand through our fingers.'  Speaking of recent statements by Javier Solana, Mr Pannella asked that the EU should act according to 'the realism of the Dalai Lama' - that we 'should not look at things in apocalyptic terms' but should rather adopt a more pragmatic approach.

Cristiana MUSCARDINI (IT) for the UEN group by saying that due to the imminence of the Olympic Games, 'we all entertained hopes that China's development was not just that of an economic and trade power.'  She pointed out that China did speak of giving rise to 'a harmonious world'.  The reality, Ms Muscardini reminded her colleagues, is very different.  The Chinese 'refuse to have a constructive dialogue with the Tibetans.'  Ms Muscardini spoke of the necessity to review trade agreements with China in this context and concluded by stating that the Olympic Games can only take place if commitments in the realm of human rights are made.

Daniel COHN-BENDIT (DE), speaking for the Greens/EFA group, said that for the last ten  years European leaders had played a role in the "Olympics of indifference", allowing human rights to be trampled on.  He recalled the 1936 Olympic Games which were a political act and said that the Beijing Games, being under a dictatorship, would also be a political act.  He said the EU "must all together refuse to attend the opening ceremony of the Games".

"40 years ago we had people raising their fists in the air because they were trying to put an end to discrimination against blacks in the US," he said, "In Beijing, we don’t want athletes with blood on their feet"  He said he hoped that through ordinary citizens' protest, Tiananmen Square could become the square of freedom. "We insist as Greens that anyone going to Beijing should create chaos by making their point and letting the Chinese know we are aware of what is going on."

Vittorio AGNOLETTO (IT) (GUE/NGL) said that defence of human rights in China does not start or finish with the Olympics.  If in international relations, governments had to put respect for human rights first, not only would they have been against China having the Olympic Games, but trade agreements with China would have human rights clauses in them.  "As it is," he said, "24 million people in China are employed by western companies, so we are in bed with them and tolerating it for the sake of global trade".

Patrick LOUIS (FR), speaking for the Ind/Dem group was critical of Bernard Kouchner (French Foreign Minister) for constantly referring to 'our Chinese friends' and failing to acknowledge what is actually happening.  "Since the Hang dynasty started, the Chinese have always thought they are superior to everyone else in the world, and the Communists are maintaining that". "European leaders will be guilty if they fail to recognise what is happening in Tibet", he said.

Bruno GOLLNISCH (FR) (Non-attached) said that 113 years ago the French Socialist Jean Jaurès had said that capitalism contains within it the seeds of war, as clouds foresee a tempest. "For 60 years," he said, "China has been lording it over Tibet and a lot of European intelligentsia have been taken in", including the left-wing protesters of the 1960s and 70s: None of them stuck up for oppressed Asians, he said.