The 89th Tibet Intergroup meeting was held on March 20, 2012 at the European Parliament and was chaired by MEP Mr. Thomas Mann, President of the Tibet Intergroup in the European Parliament...
The 89th Tibet Intergroup meeting was held on March 20, 2012 at the European Parliament and was chaired by MEP Mr. Thomas Mann, President of the Tibet Intergroup in the European Parliament...
1. Historical Relations in Tibet by Katia Buffetrille, expert on Tibet from Paris, E.P.H.E., France
- Goal of presentation is to show Sino-Tibetan relations in history
- 7th to 9th c.: Tibetan empire. Introduction of Buddhism. Great cultural flourishing
- 13th-14th c. China and Tibet integrated in Mongol empire but Tibet is not a part of China “Priest-patron” relation between the Mongol emperor of the Mongol Yuan Dynasty and Tibetan hierarchs
- 14th-17th c.: Ming Dynasty in China proper (1368-1644). Mongols dominate Central Asia: give title Dalai Lama to Tibetan Gelug hierarch (1578), then temporal power on Tibet (1642)
- 17th-early 20th c.: Manchu rule in China as “Qing dynasty” (1644-1911). Extend their dominion to neighbouring countries. Manchu envoys supervise Tibetan government in Lhasa
- 1913: 13th Dalai Lama proclaims Tibet independent
- Traditional Tibetan society: hierarchical, locked into its traditional lifestyle, mainly subsistence farming, some herding and trade. Importance of Buddhism. Strong feeling of Tibetan identity
- 1950: Invasion and occupation of Tibet by PLA
- 1951: 17-Point Agreement
- 1956: Uprising in eastern Tibet following forced collectivization
- 1959: Uprising in Lhasa (10th March) violently repressed. Escape of Dalai Lama to India
- 1965: Creation of the Tibet Autonomous Region (Central Tibet + eastern Kham)
- 1966-1976: Cultural revolution
- 1980s: Economic and political reforms. Relative religious liberalization
- 1987: no more restriction to Han migration in Tibet
- 1987-1989: demonstrations in Lhasa led by monks and nuns
- From 1992 onwards: “socialist market economy” with heavy subsidisation fromCentral government. Growth benefits predominantly to the Chinese city-dwellers. Rural-urban gap widens
- 1995: Chinese authorities refused new Panchen Lama after regular recognition by Dalai Lama and impose their own. Patriotic re-education campaigns in monastery and general population until now
- From 2000 “Development of the west”. Increased integration and sensitization of Tibet through infrastructure (train, road), exploitation of mineral resources
- 2008: Olympic Games in PRC. Demonstrations across the whole Tibetan plateau. The answer is repression and propaganda
- MEP question the expert of Tibet, Katia Buffetrille
1: Why is it necessary to know history?
- Question 1: Why is it necessary to know history?
Chinese authorities based their legitimacy on Tibet on their own
interpretation of history that pretends that Tibet was since very long
time an integral part of China
Chinese authorities based their legitimacy on Tibet on their own
- Question/Comment 2: Tibet as an entity: Tibet has sovereignty. Is there a concept in mind of Tibetans of having power over their own land?
there is. Before 1951 Tibet had never been governed as
"an integral part of China" and Tibetans never considered their
country as "an integral part of China"
there is. Before 1951 Tibet had never been governed as
3: What is the current level of oppression?
- Question 3: What is the current level of oppression?
- It is high. The situation is extremely tense and people are scared. Many chekpoints have been set up on the roads, much more police and spies everywhere, work groups were sent to monasteries to conduct propaganda
- Question 4: There are territorial, linguistic and religious identities and which one of these is/are the most important in Tibet?
- The feeling of national identity is very strong among the population: Buddhism, language, scripture, a common culture are among the factors that sustain the feeling of identity
- Final remarks by Thomas Mann, president of the Tibet Intergroup:
- On 10th of March there is Tibet day
- The president of the EU-Parliament will present a declaration regarding this topic
Wednesday, 4th February 2009
Thomas Mann opened the meeting and introduced the new representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Brussels, Mr. Tashi Wangdi.
Mr.Tashi Wangdi expressed his great pleasure in being able to work with the European Parliament Tibet Intergroup, and was very grateful for its support. There were now four offices representing the Tibetan government in exile in Europe, namely London, Geneva, Paris and Brussels. The Brussels office used to depend on Paris but has now been upgraded.
Mr. Tashi Wangdi had formerly worked in the United States, where there was much support for the Tibet issue from the National political parties, and the US administration. It had been hoped that the Olympic Games would have enabled the Chinese government to be more politically open, more relaxed, and in that context, to negotiate a settlement concerning Tibet. But unfortunately since last March things have got worse and the situation is extremely tense in Tibet. Just recently there have been over 6000 arrests, houses raided at midnight, and confiscation of documents and other items. Possession of photos of and books on the Dalai Lama is regarded as a crime. People were rounded up and arrested.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has for the last twenty years has made concerted and continuous efforts to find a solution using his Middle Way approach. It has been made abundantly clear to the Chinese leadership. His Holiness has appealed to world leaders to start a debate and to reassure the Chinese government that he does not seek independence, indeed that his solution would be good for China. Just before a visit to China, George Bush had a meeting with the Dalai Lama, who said: “Please when you meet the Chinese government representatives, pleased tell them that I am not seeking independence, but a solution within Chinese laws for a real autonomy.” Unfortunately there had been no response from the Chinese government.
Last November, the Tibetan government in exile published a detailed outline of what they meant by autonomy, within the framework of the Chinese constitution, and the assurances given to them over the last 50 years. The document is referred to as the “Memorandum”. It was thought to be a basis for development. Unfortunately the Chinese government decided to arrange a Press Conference, during which they rejected the Memorandum, accused the Dalai Lama of having a hidden agenda, and called it a game plan for independence. It would have been proper for the Chinese side to discuss it. If there was disagreement, the matter should have been discussed and counter proposals put forward. As the Chinese went public, so did the Tibetan administration and the Memorandum was made available to the public. It has been translated into nine languages.
The main thrust of the Tibetan government in exile’s approach has been to protect ethnic identity, culture, language, etc – all provided for, in principle, in the Chinese Constitution. The reality is the opposite.
Since then, Chinese officials have been travelling to the United States and Europe explaining their side. But repression in Tibet has been getting worse and worse and the situation is volatile and explosive. It is impossible for Tibetans in Tibet to express their views, and the true situation is not being divulged. So all the Tibetans can do is to demonstrate, with negative results. There is a vicious circle of demonstrations and repression.
Just recently the Tibetan leadership made an approach to the Chinese government, requesting restraint, and appealing to people inside Tibet to avoid violent actions.
The Tibetan government in exile had grave concerns for the safety of the Tibetan people in Tibet, and the only hope in this dark period was for international support.
Mr. Tashi Wangdi referred to those who lived in Eastern Europe and had similar experiences. His Holiness the Dalai Lama had visited the former Czechoslovakia, and was the first international guest of President Havel. At that time he met many officials and shared experiences. If people are locked up, but hear of support from the free world, it keeps hope alive.
The support of the European Union was very important for the Tibetan administration, as for example Resolutions, public statements, and enlisting the support of the European Commission. The forthcoming Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing would also be extremely important, and would include the lack of response to His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s proposals.
It was hoped that the Memorandum published by the Tibetan government-in-exile last November would be looked at very carefully by world leaders, and notice taken that the reflections therein do not undermine the sovereignty of China.
Mr. Tashi Wangdi said that he had brought this Memorandum to the attention of the President of the European Parliament, who had been kind enough to discuss the matter with him.
Mr. Marco Cappato said that the present legislation was coming to an end, but the 10 March, an important date in Tibetan history, would not go unnoticed; there would be a Hearing in the Foreign Affairs Committee and the date proposed was 31 March. The Chinese authorities have been invited but there is as yet no reply!
Gabriela said that she has ordered a quantity of small Tibetan flags, which could be put on tables and used in the Hemicycle on 10 March.
Wednesday 14 January 2009
Thomas Mann opened the meeting and regretted that the invited guest, Mr Raphaël Liogier, could not attend as his flight had been diverted to Mulhouse because of bad weather conditions and it was too late to get to Strasbourg.
Thomas Mann then referred to the recent pressure from the Commission to suppress Intergroups; there had been a meeting with Intergroup Presidents, and there was unanimity to keep the Intergroups in existence. Efforts were being made to find a compromise. The idea to hold Intergroup meetings on Thursday was unworkable because many MEPs return home on Thursday afternoons. The idea to discuss Intergroup subjects in Committees was also unrealistic, as work is carried out with NGOs and many other people from outside the EP. We should fight for the right to hold Intergroup meetings, with a properly designated room and interpretation.
Edward McMillan Scott said that he was happy to join the Tibet Intergroup. His interest in Tibet sprang from involvement since 1996 with the EU/China Delegation, and he had a strong line on reform in China. He had met His Holiness the Dalai Lama on several occasions, and thought he should have spoken out more vigorously before the plenary session in December, although he did take a stronger line at the Press Conference.
Thomas Mann then spoke of the fasting action in the EP last December. It had been a great success, more than 500 people undertook the day’s fast. There had been numerous reports on the Press and TV media.
Mr.Maaten said that there had been good Press and TV coverage in the Netherlands of the Dalai Lama’s visit and the fasting action. He thought it was a good idea, people do take it seriously, and it should be done more often! It drew attention back to Tibet, after the end of the Olympic Games, and perhaps more importantly, to China itself.
Edward McMillan Scott said there had been a good deal of positive media coverage in the UK, and that there was a feeling of guilt about the abandonment of Tibet by the then UK government in 1949. As for the fasting action, why not do it again? but perhaps by having one meat-free day a week. 7 million people in China eat no meat at all.
Ms Laszlo Topkes said that the situation in Tibet was familiar to the Hungarian minority in Romania, who were also fighting for real autonomy.
Thomas Mann then referred to support for the NTDT (New Tang Dynasty Television). Efforts were being made to support the only free television station in China, which had been shut down by the satellite operator EUTELSAT following pressure from the Chinese authorities. So far there were 330 signatures, but more were needed.
Edward McMillan Scott reminded the meeting that the President could be asked for the deadline for the collection of signatures to be extended if necessary.
Lissy Groener said that members should look at the list of signatures, and try and use their persuasion on those MEPs who had not signed.
Marc Cappato referred to what should be done next. The Chinese authorities were planning a special celebration on 20 March, to mark the “liberation” of Tibet. The EP could also celebrate, for example, a celebration of the anniversary of the uprising in Tina-Men Square. Or, of course, 10 March.
Gabriela reminded the meeting that 10 March was actually during the March plenary session in Strasbourg, and the Intergroup should use the opportunity to take some action.
Thomas Mann then spoke about the Memorandum on Tibetan Issues, prepared by the Tibetan government in exile. He had spoken with Kelsang Gyaltsen who asked him to use opportunities to spread information about the details of the Memorandum. Thomas thought it would be a good idea to hold a Congress later in the year, when information about the Memorandum could be spread. The Memorandum should go on the agenda of the Foreign Affairs Committee, perhaps in March.
Marc Cappato said that the President of the European Parliament should be asked for a Legal Opinion on the Memorandum, to say whether it was about independence or autonomy. There is also the possibility of a Hearing, where one representative of each party would attend (Tibet and China), although it was unlikely that China would accept. The representatives of each side would be asked to explain what happened during the negotiations, in a neutral way. Possible dates for this hearing would be 24 February or 31 March.
Thomas Mann said that the contents of the Memorandum are very interesting, but there should be a shorter version. Translations are being made into German, Spanish, French and Italian.
Marc Cappato intervened to say that he thought a shorter version should be made by the Tibetan government in exile, rather than anyone else.
The debate then turned to the 50th Anniversary of the Invasion of Tibet, 10th March 2009. Apparently the Chinese authorities have decided to celebrate the 20th March as the Anniversary of the “Liberation” of Tibet. This is provocation! It was suggested that the opportunity should be used to hold an Urgency Debate to discuss the present situation.
Lissy Groener said that we should perhaps use the opportunity as a Boomerang effect, to find a way to use that date as a case for remembering the negative side of the Chinese invasion.
Other suggestions included making sure we have an adequate supply of small Tibetan flags to be distributed on 10th March (or even before), organising a physical gathering somewhere in the European Parliament, perhaps before the Vote? It was also suggested that if the Chinese authorities organise their counter-event on 20th March, a delegation should be there, with Tibetan flags.
Or of using the “kata” – white scarves, as a symbol of Tibet.
Questions should be asked in the Urgency Debate, as to what the European Parliament has done to intervene in the matter – in fact, it has done very little. Gabriela suggested as Exhibition on Tibet, and perhaps Tibetan Dances, in the EP building, which would draw people’s attention to the problem. Lissy said that as International Women’s Day fell during that week, we should link the two things and have some kind of exhibition of support for Tibetan women.
Gabriela then spoke about the Nunnery in Dehra Dun, which the Group visited in 2006. Since then, a Temple has been built, also with accommodation for dormitories and schoolrooms. The inauguration will take place on 29 March and Gabriela will attend. It would be very nice if the Intergroup could offer some help, as there is still a lot of work to be carried out in the building. For instance, there is no hot water, and it would very good if the Intergroup could offer some money for solar heating for the hot water supply. The total cost is 5000 Euros, and 2000 Euros has already been collected. It would also be a useful opportunity to try and get some media coverage, before the European elections.
Mr. Tokes told the meeting that His Holiness the Dalai Lama was probably coming to Romania in September. Mention was also made of His Holiness’ visit to Rome in February, when He would receive Honorary Citizenship of the city, a symbolic action. He would also be visiting Baden-Baden this year.
The refugee children at the time had very minimal materials, using chalk and slates for learning to write, and were seated on the floor in two small rooms. It took many years before chairs, tables, paper and pens were available. The numbers increased every year and support came from charitable associations. Studies evolved to scientific subjects, English, sociology and the debating of philosophy. Studies at the school are now recognised by the Indian government so examinations can be taken to provide qualifications.
Many Tibetan children were born in India, but children have arrived from Tibet in order to get the traditional education they could never have in their own country. Many refugee Tibetan children go to the Children’s village in Dharamsala or to South India. They study the school curriculum but are also spiritually inclined. Their health is also looked after in the school in a well-equipped Medical Centre. One 16-year-old student had leukaemia and the school financed his treatment, which cost 10,000 Euros.
Support groups in Germany and Switzerland have supplied equipment for chemistry and physics laboratories. The high-grade examination at the end of the school years is comparable to a Professorship of Philosophy
A new building is being constructed, as when His Holiness the Dalai Lama visits there are so many people accommodation has to be found for them. Also when debating takes place, guests need accommodation. There are now 400 nuns in the centre and they also take part in the building work. The Overseer of the building work is a monk, but he is not paid for his work. He said “Save the money for the students!”
The Dalai Lama came to open the new building and spoke of his support for the nuns and their access to further education. Many nuns took part in the Peace March between Delhi and the Nepalese border, just before the opening of the Olympic Games. Many were arrested in Delhi, their food taken away, and some were kept for as long as 14 days before they were released. But the march was considered as being successful, and the Indian population showed their support.
25 September 2008
The members of the Tibet Intergroup gave accounts of the various activities supporting Tibet that took place in their home countries, before, during and after the Olympic Games.
Mr. Milan Horacek spoke for Germany, Mr. Janusz Onyszkiewicz and Mr. Marcin Libicki for Poland, Mrs. Eva Lichtenberger for Austria, Mr. Thomas Mann for Germany, and Mr. Raül Romeva i Rueda for Spain.
The meeting also discussed various plans for the forthcoming visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the European Parliament on 4 December.
Wednesday, 19 June 2008
Thomas Mann opened the meeting, which was not on the usual day or time. The arrangement for future meetings is still unclear, they might even be in Brussels, or even Thursday afternoons. This was quite unacceptable. Intergroups are an essential part of the European Parliament’s work and should enjoy the right to meet at a convenient time.
Thomas then introduced Lama Jampa Phuntsok, Principal of the Srongtsen Bhrikuti Boarding High School in Kathmandu, Nepal, and Mr. Sonam Thinley, Secretary of the School. He added that he had travelled to Nepal in 2006 to look at the preparations for the election, and visited Tibetan camps in Kathmandu.
Lama Phuntsok thanked Mr. Mann for his invitation to come to the Tibet Intergroup meeting, and since his English was not so good as that of Mr Thinley, he asked him to give an explanation of the present situation in Kathmandu.
Mr. Thinley said that since 10 March this year Tibetans in Nepal have participated in several peaceful demonstrations, interrupted only during election week and again as a tribute to Chinese earthquake victims at the end of May.
But there was clear evidence of human rights violations by the Nepalese police, who use immense force. Demonstrators were brutally beaten, but since the UNHCR put pressure on the government things have slightly improved. However demonstrators are still being choked, kicked and punched by the police without journalists seeing this. One demonstrator had both legs broken. No female police were available, so female demonstrators were manhandled by the Nepalese police. These activities only served to remind Mr. Thinley of the difficult moments he has experienced as a Tibetan living in Nepal, without any basic rights and freedoms. His mother left Tibet at 16, fleeing over the Himalayan mountains to reach Nepal. He learned many beautiful poems about Tibet during his school years and often tried to picture himself in Tibet. When he met people who had been to Tibet, he wished that he would one day have the chance to sleep in his own country and touch the Tibetan soil, and promise his parents and grandparents that they would all one day go back to their home: Tibet.
With the end of the Constituent assembly elections, the Kingdom of Nepal is now declared a republican country. The ex-King has left the Royal Palace and lives as an ordinary citizen. The Maoists won in the elections and Tibetans are afraid that the situation will worsen, especially concerning Tibetan issues in Nepal. The new government is under pressure from the Chinese government regarding Tibetan issues. The government regards Tibet as an integral part of China. Each year around 3000 Tibetans escape from Tibet via Nepal. Since 1989, Nepal ceased to permit newly arriving Tibetans to remain or seek refuge in Nepal. Thos Tibetans who arrived before 1989 were given a Refugee card, but this means only a permit to reside in Nepal. One cannot own property or a business. Travelling is restricted in some parts of the border with China. One can rarely travel internationally with this permit. Some countries recognise the permit, such as the USA. To apply for travel documents is expensive. Theoretically Tibetan refugees in Nepal are eligible for citizenship, but this is not a viable option. The Nepal Citizenship Act permits an adult to apply if he or she:
has the ability to speak and write the national language of Nepal;
has renounced citizenship of any other state;
is a member of any profession in Nepal;
has resided in Nepal for at least 15 years;
is a citizen of a country that permits naturalized citizenship to citizens of Nepal;
is of good moral character, etc.
But these laws remain in the law books. Out of roughly 20,000 Tibetans in Kathmandu and Pokhara alone, nearly 50% or more Tibetans do not possess a Refugee Card or have citizenship.
Newly arrived Tibetans normally arrive in the Tibetan Reception Centre in Kathmandu and then leave for India, mostly to get an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and then to join a school or a monastery.
Four Tibetan Schools were established in Kathmandu during the eighties for Tibetan refugees. The main objectives of these schools are to preserve the Tibetan language, culture, tradition and religion. All schools are of different levels, i.e. Primary, Secondary, High School and Higher Secondary School. But science students who want to continue in further education have to go to India for two or more years as there is no Tibetan Higher Secondary school that provides science education. Refuge cards are not considered as legitimate to obtain admission to the majority of colleges in Nepal. Whilst all young people in Nepal face unemployment to some extent, for Tibetans it is aggravated by legal and social discrimination. And private businesses, from which Tibetans are not barred by law, nonetheless hesitate to hire qualified Tibetans when Nepalese young people also need jobs.
Due to the very limited access to education, proper documents, job opportunities, career building, and a secured future, living in Nepal for Tibetans is very difficult. That is why many Tibetans young people prefer seeking asylum in developed countries.
The Srongsten Bhrikuti Boarding High School was established in 1982. In the beginning it operated in a rented house and the number of students was barely 100. Now there are 700 students. Classes run from kindergarten to Class 10. In view of the many difficulties Tibetan students living in Nepal are facing, there are plans to upgrade the school into a higher secondary school that will provide two more years of education for Tibetan refugees willing to study science. New classrooms and other basic infrastructure are needed and the estimated budget for this project is around 40,000 Euros.
In reply to questions, Mr. Thinley said that most children finish their studies in the Srongtsen Bhrikuti school around 10 or 12 years old and then go to India. Not all higher education establishments cater for Tibetan speaking students so English is used. Financing of the school comes from school fees and donations from different sources, and not from the Tibetan government in exile nor from the Nepalese government. Mr. Sógor Csaba said there were similar problems in Romania, and not to be discouraged! He hoped the EU would react and wished that there were common laws in all countries. Thomas Mann referred to the fact that Tibetan students and refugees can go to the US and become US citizens, and asked if that is really what Tibetans want? Mr. Thinley said that an older generation of Tibetan refugees liked to stay in Nepal or India because they could meet the Tibetan community, and celebrate together religious festivals or other occasions, keeping their culture and traditions. But rights and freedom are very limited so nowadays many young Tibetans do want to settle in developed countries and enjoy freedom and rights there.
Gabriela pointed out that many sponsored Tibetans living in India, having had a good education; go to Canada or America instead of using their qualifications to help other Tibetans. They should spend at least two years helping new refugees coming from Tibet. Mr Thinley replied that college or university places were still very limited for Tibetans. There is the Tibetan Institute of Medical Studies in Dharamsala, but students must agree that they will serve the community for at least two years after their studies. Michel Jermann spoke of a young Tibetan girl who trained in teaching and came to Strasbourg for courses and learned a great deal about teaching and psychomotor skills. She has been working for 3 years but wanted to go to the United States, where she is now doing housework.
But she fulfilled her dream. A Nepalese identity card has to be obtained in order to travel and the only solution is to engage in corruption - anything from 1,500 to 2,000 Euros to get the necessary card. Tibetans in Nepal have access to very little, cannot get a driving licence, or travel, or get jobs, etc. So it’s a question of leaving for a better life elsewhere. Studies past Bachelor level lead nowhere, so leaving Nepal is a legitimate wish.
Thomas Mann also mentioned that Tibet seemed to have faded into the background as far as the media was concerned. There should be an emergency debate at the next plenary session and people should be encouraged not to watch the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games. Mr. Poettering will not be attending. Political statements should be made, it was important to keeping the flag flying on the Tibetan issue.
Mr. Tunne Kelma from Estonia fully agreed with these remarks and said that Estonia’s President will not be attending the Olympic Games nor will he send a representative. But those who go to Beijing should voice other opinions – the Chinese are bound to be sensitive to this.
Mr. Csaba referred to the fact that a big Minorities Bill is passing through the Romanian Parliament, as there are many minorities in Romania. They are important parts of the community and should be kept intact.
Gabriela said that an Urgent Resolution should be passed on the state of Tibetan prisoners in Tibet. It is known that they are being severely tortured, do not have enough food, some are dying from hunger. An independent group from an international organisation, UNESCO or another, should go to Tibet and see what is going on. If there is no news in the media this does not mean that nothing is going on.
Wednesday, 21 May 2008
Thomas Mann opened the meeting and spoke about His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit to Germany, which had been a great success. He had visited many cities and each time several thousand people attended. There were a small number of protests, and His Holiness said, “I know that I am a trouble-maker!” His visit attracted a great deal of media attention. The world needed people who were willing to speak out for freedom and justice especially when there was a diplomatic “ice age”.
Members of all parties wanted to invite His Holiness to once again visit the European Parliament, and it should be made clear that the European Parliament themselves decide who they want to meet. The Council of Europe had issued an invitation for the Dalai Lama to speak to the June Parliamentary Assembly, but owing to an overloaded diary it had not been possible to take up the invitation at the moment. Everyone is very keen to invite His Holiness, all over the world.
There had not been any recent demonstrations by Tibetans, as a sign of solidarity with the Chinese who suffered during the recent earthquakes.
The recent meeting between the representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities did not provide much opportunity for enthusiasm. Pleasant things were said, but implementation will be very difficult.
The Dalai Lama also recently visited Great Britain and received an Honorary Doctorate from London Metropolitan University. He had a meeting with the Parliamentary Committee for Foreign Affairs, and also met the Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Bill Newton-Dunne will be asked to talk at the next meeting about this visit, as will Nathalie Griesbeck after the Dalai Lama’s visit to Nantes in early August.
The next President of the EU will be Nicolas Sarkozy, and he should be asked to receive the Dalai Lama. A letter had been sent to Bernard Kouchner but so far there was no reply.
The Tibetan flag should also fly from the roof of EP buildings.
Mr. Janusz Onyszkiewicz spoke of the invitation issued to the Dalai Lama to receive an Honorary Degree from the no. 1 university in Poland, the Jagiellonian University of Kraków. No answer had yet been received, but His Holiness would be assured of a warm welcome in Poland.
Mr Onyskwiewicz also spoke of the legacy of SOLIDARNOSC. In the 60s and 70s there had been violent clashes with the authorities and it was realised that attitudes must change and that non-violence would be more acceptable. Inspiration had been taken from Jaroslav Havel, who had written about the “power of the powerless”, and from the example of India. At that time, some people knew about the Dalai Lama and appreciated his teachings – truth is the only weapon that we possess. The Polish workers realised that the only way to change the totalitarian attitude into a benevolent autocracy was to create Trade Unions, just as His Holiness the Dalai Lama asks for real autonomy in Tibet and building institutions in Tibetan society.
A very important point is to make contact with other politicians to gain practical experience and valuable pointers.
At future meetings between representatives of His Holiness and the Chinese authorities, it was probable that pragmatism would have to be combined with principles. We should insist on full negotiation. We should stop talking about the weather and talk about the real issues. It should also be remembered that the EU does not depend on China, but rather that China depends on the EU!
For the first time, the fact that the leader of the CCP was talking with His Holiness the Dalai Lama (through representatives) has been reported in the Chinese media. Kelsang Gyaltsen saw this as a symbolic action and a step forward.
Eva Lichtenberger took the floor and spoke about the very useful meeting on
6 May between the TIG and the Sub Committee on Human Rights. The conference was focussed mainly on what could happen before, during and after the Olympic Games, concerning a real autonomy for Tibet and Human Rights in China (as promised by China when it was awarded the Olympic Games). This promise included freedom of movement, freedom for the press, etc. but these promises have not been fulfilled. There was much discussion on the subject.
If this non-compliance goes on, Heads of State should not attend the Opening Ceremony. Many sportsmen and women have expressed their views very clearly on this point, including the former colleague Rheinhold Messner.
The Chinese government had been putting Olympic Games blogs on-line, but were not anxious to give any interviews, or if they did, the representative concerned would not turn up. One Austrian expert spoke about censorship but the reply was that the Chinese government found some people “disobedient”.
The Chinese are not interested in progress about Human Rights in Tibet. Methods of reducing freedom of the press are more than ever sophisticated. There is a satellite especially for the Olympic Games.
Gabriela said that it would be of help if the EU would officially invite His Holiness to visit, and that the TIG should hold one or two meetings dealing with autonomy structure, referring to examples such as the Tyrol, Scotland, etc. Specialists could be invited to speak of their experience.
In the beginning the autonomy process is discussed behind closed doors, but eventually should become open and official. Citizens should have the right to be addressed in their own language and not depend on Chinese translation.
It was unfortunate that His Holiness would not be able to accept the Council of Europe’s invitation to speak at the June Parliamentary Assembly, but he had been overwhelmed with invitations in recent weeks.
Mr. Poettering was willing to go to Dharamsala if it would be of help.
Eva added that we should discuss what could be done after the Olympic Games. Tibet should be kept on the EU Agenda.
Wednesday, 23 April 2008
Thomas Mann opened the meeting and introduced Kate Saunders, Communications Director of the International Campaign for Tibet. Ms Saunders spoke of the recent events, and said that there was a new awareness and a new image of Tibet. There had recently been an orderly march in Lhassa demanding the release of imprisoned monks, but the march was stopped, and 50 people detained. Many people sat down in protest. The police and paramilitary were restrained at first, but there were some scuffles. A Tibetan flag was unfurled in the Barkhor area, but the person who did this was dragged away.
There had been protests before in 1988, but this time things have moved very quickly and the scale is bigger than anyone imagined. Other protests have called for freedom of Tibet and the return of His Holiness the Dalai Lama. People communicate with cell phones and can express their feelings that way, but the Chinese authorities have realised this and now confiscate cell phones. Because of the monks’ protests, there is now compulsory “Patriotic Education” instruction in monasteries.
ICT had monitored 97 non-violent protests (and a single one where violence occurred). A group of nomads rode into a town on horses, unarmed (normally they would be, but they were making a point), tore down a Communist Party flag and raised a Tibetan flag. Monks in the Jokhang temple gave a virtual Press conference and spoke of their wish for His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet. One monk spoke of the fact that religious repression prevented him from continuing on his path of Dharma. They are distressed by allegations that they have arms hidden in the temple.
Richard Gere recently referred to the Tibetan protests, and aid that “speaking truth – the right speech” is a precept of Tibetan Buddhism, and recent events show the emptiness of the “harmonious society” claimed by China.
No one questions the authority of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, indeed it has been strengthened by recent events. People have risked their lives to show their loyalty. The Chinese President Hu Jintao has a great deal of responsibility for the complete breakdown of China’s policy in Tibet, he set out many policies that led to unrest. What has happened recently is the consequence of 50 years of Chinese misrule. There has been a failure to understand the deep-seated sense of loss of the Tibetan people; they lose their language, their livelihoods, and become increasingly marginalized with the Chinese influx (for the second time).
They are forced to denounce His Holiness the Dalai Lama, causing great stress. This has been happening for a long time but is a hundred times worse now. Work teams move into monasteries, demolish holy shrines and burn images of the Dalai Lama. The military crackdown is very intensive, but those who protest have genuine reasons to do so.
The Beijing-Lhassa train now transports hundreds of prisoners to Sechuan and GangTsu; many monks are badly beaten. This is all very chilling for older Tibetans in Lhassa – they remember the 1950s when prisoners went west and never came back.
There have been 4000 detentions admitted by the Chinese authorities, but people are still disappearing every day. An atmosphere of fear and terror reigns; people wait for a knock on the door.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama has been made into a scapegoat and is accused of mastering the protests.
Europe has a big role to play, and the EU should use its diplomatic influence and continue to fully support Tibet. It is now high time for China to speak to His Holiness’ representatives. Tibet is at a turning point and EU support never mattered more.
Thomas Mann thanked Ms Saunders for her talk and referred to the numerous Resolutions on Tibet passed by the European Parliament. He also mentioned the black armbands that could be worn by the Olympic sportsmen and women, giving a clear sign, without provocation.
Gabriela informed the meeting that Mr. Jarzembowski is going to China, and that it would be useful for him to take names of some of the monks that have been detained so that he could ask the authorities for news of them. Ms Saunders promised to pass on this information.
In answer to a question about the Panchen Lama, Ms Saunders said that at one time there was a lot of news about the “Chinese” Panchen Lama, it seemed that he had a high profile, but of late there has been no news of him. Another question concerned legal assistance to the detained and imprisoned, would be it possible to help, to offer this assistance, maybe as Observers?
Ms Saunders replied that 18 courageous Chinese lawyers had offered to give legal assistance to detained people, but after harassment from the Chinese authorities they pulled out. It was nevertheless an excellent idea to offer this assistance, especially for Tibetans who have been detained in vast numbers, many tortured. Some were released but others face charges. Such an offer of assistance would give extra visibility to the issue.
Upon being asked what was happening in their own states, a number of members told of considerable media interest, demonstrations, and pressure on governments to give support to the Tibetan cause and for the Chinese authorities to meet with His Holiness’ representatives. Many governments will not be represented at the Opening Ceremony.
Wednesday, 12 March 2008
Thomas Mann introduced Ms Carol Wang, Programme Officer of the Human Rights in China (HRIC)
Ms Wang presented the facts about the general crackdown situation in relation to China’s Olympic and human rights obligations, and placed in context the repression of Tibetans that has been observed during the last year. The Olympic promises contrast with the reality of the increasingly repressive climate. This included taking into account recent incidents of harassment, detention, and censorship of other groups such as petitioners, environmentalists, journalists and human right activists. She also discussed crackdowns in ethnic minority areas, and specifically in Tibet.
Legal Framework: International obligations and PRC law
The PRC is not adequately protecting the legal rights of ethnic minorities, despite an existing domestic framework for ethnic autonomy, as well as its obligations to respect, protect, promote and fulfil international human rights laws.
● Failure to comply with international obligations: International law stipulates that constitutional and legislative protections must be enacted, and that China must ensure the implementation of these rights. Although many laws, regulations, policies and statements address the importance of equality among Chinese minority ethnic groups, the PRC is not meeting its international obligations on minority rights for the Mongols, Tibetans and Uyghurs.
● Shortcomings of the LREA and its implementation: Implementation of the Law on Regional Ethnic Autonomy (LREA) and other state policies has failed to protect minorities’ unique cultures, as a result of a) gaps between central policies and local implementation, b) the lack of a legal definition of discrimination, c) the lack of systematic and effective monitoring and assessment of implementation, and d) poor institutional capacity. LREA implementation must also address the obstacles facing the overall development of a rule of law in China, including the lack of accountability and transparency, and independence from the Communist Party of China (CPC).
Limited and ineffectual political participation
Despite the PRC’s obligations to implement international human rights law, and its own framework of autonomous governance, minorities are still unable to exercise real political decision-making that has an impact on their own communities.
● As a result of severe gaps between law and practice, there are major weaknesses in the PRC’s ethnic autonomy arrangements.
● Additionally, because of limited access to the CPC, ethnic minority individuals cannot participate in real decision-making.
● Restrictions on overall growth of domestic civil society mean that opportunities for ethnic individuals to form organisations around cultural or political interests are strictly limited.
● Furthermore, the government’s violations of civil and political rights, exacerbate the vulnerable situation of minorities in china.
Given the government’s intolerance of critical views and rejection of political reforms, the prospects for meaningful political participation are limited – not only for ethnic minorities but also for everyone living within China’s borders.
Inequitable and discriminatory development
Although there have been attempts to address the growing disparities within its borders, China’s rapid economic transformation has not improved the lives of ethnic minorities overall.
● Instead, there continue to be sharp inequalities in basic social services, such as education and health, while income and unemployment comparisons show that persons belonging to ethnic groups fall behind national averages and those for Han Chinese.
● The costs of inequitable development are high for those living in rural areas, and political exclusion from the process means that solutions are not necessarily made in the best interest of local ethnic minorities.
● The Western Development Strategy (WDS), targeting the western provinces and autonomous regions, is intended to “modernize” these areas and narrow the development gap between the interior and the wealthier coastal provinces. Given the potential for discontent in such inequitable situations, however, the WDS is widely seen as a political tool for strengthening national unity through “common prosperity.” Its official development goals are undermined by three unspoken but overarching objectives – resource extraction from the borderlands to benefit the coast, assimilation of local ethnic minority groups through Han Chinese population transfers to the autonomous areas, and the alternate purpose of infrastructure development for military use.
These policies and the failure of the government to address the resulting inequalities and discrimination contribute to the violations of human rights for ethnic minorities.
Inadequate protection of cultural identity
As the object of integrationist policies, which are comprised of political, economic and social elements, minorities are under continual threat, both officially sanctioned and otherwise. Han Chinese settlers now dominate the urban public sphere in autonomous regions, making it difficult for minorities to maintain distinct cultural identities.
● Decreased use of local languages in the public sphere, as well as the imposition of Mandarin, means that ethnic minority children have limited access to native language or cultural education.
● The declining availability of ethnic language or cultural education is compounded by an aggressive campaign of Chinese nationalist ‘patriotic education’, instituted in primary and secondary schools, in addition to centres of religious learning such as monasteries and mosques.
These attempts to assimilate ethnic minorities is occurring in tandem with systematic violations of civil and political rights, making it nearly impossible for ethnic individuals to express their cultural identities publicly.
Linking conflict with political participation, inequitable development and protection of cultural identity.
Although this report focuses on Mongols, Tibetans and Uyghurs, instances of conflict are occurring with increasing frequency across China – not just among these minority groups but also among the Han Chinese. As a result, minority rights protection has implications for wider human rights issues across China. The government is willing to suppress any individual or group – not just minorities – who are perceived as threats to the integrity of the PRC. However, the ethnic status of Mongols, Tibetans and Uyghurs makes them especially vulnerable to the mechanisms of repression.
This report identifies three key potential causes of conflict for these groups: - a) limited and ineffectual political participation, b) inequitable and discriminatory development, and c) inadequate protection of cultural identity. Sustainable solutions must be adopted if a stable, peaceful society is the ultimate goal. Such a society can only be achieved in China if minorities and other individuals and groups are empowered to voice their opinions. Opportunities must be created for ethnic groups to participate in governance, and also in the creation of a civil society. Development policy must focus on the local population – both in planning and in project implementation, so that benefits are shared evenly. At the same time, adequate minority rights protections must be in place, so that expressions of cultural identity are encouraged rather than stifled or attacked.
Only when these issues can be resolved peacefully within the context of respect for human rights, will the PTC rhetoric about China’s “harmonious society” become a reality.
The international community has a critical role in the promotion of minority rights protections inside China. International organizations, governments, multinational corporations, and civil society groups should continue to engage the Chinese government in substantive dialogue on the issue of human rights and political reform to increase transparency and accountability, through monitoring and pressure. International co-operation and further engagement should take into serious consideration this report’s recommendations, which are directed at the PRC government, in the following areas: -