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Statement by State Secretary Janez Lenarčič on behalf of the EU Council on the Situation in Tibet at the Extraordinary Plenary Session of the European Parliament

Honourable Members of the European Parliament,


The European Union is concerned about developments in Tibet and its neighbouring Chinese provinces where a large number of Tibetans live (Qinghai, Sichuan and Gansu). Since the outbreak of unrest in Tibet, EU representatives have been in contact with Chinese representatives on several occasions.

On 15 March 2008, the Chinese authorities first briefed the EU troika on the latest occurrences in the Tibetan capital Lhasa, at the EU's request. Discussions on the situation in Tibet were also held at a meeting between EU representatives and the Assistant Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China Wu Hongbo on 17 March 2008. On that occasion, both counterparts agreed that the dialogue on the occurrences in Tibet should remain continuous and open.

Following the incident at the Chinese Embassy in Brussels, the representatives of the EU troika and Belgium were invited to a further discussion with the Chinese side on 19 March 2008. The Chinese side requested an apology for the numerous protests in Europe and compensation for any possible damages sustained to Chinese Embassies.

Earlier last week (17 March), the Presidency in its declaration on Tibet voiced its deep concern about the numerous reports of unrest in Tibet.  It conveyed its deepest sympathy and condolences to the families of the victims and stressed that the EU was urgently seeking further clarification of the situation from the Chinese Government.

The Presidency called for restraint on all sides. It urged the Chinese authorities to refrain from using force against protesters and to respond to the demonstrations in accordance with internationally recognised democratic principles. At the same time the Presidency called on demonstrators to desist from violence. It stressed the importance it attaches to the right of freedom of expression and peaceful protest.

As it is well known, the EU supports the territorial integrity of China and strives for peaceful reconciliation between the Chinese authorities and the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama and his representatives. In our Declaration, we urged the Chinese government to address the concerns of Tibetans with regard to the respect for human rights. The EU also encourages both sides to enter into a constructive dialogue. This may serve as a basis for a sustainable solution which would be acceptable to all and which would fully respect Tibetan culture, religion and identity.

In addition to the aforementioned Declaration issued by the Presidency, the EU requested that the Chinese authorities allow independent international media access to Tibet. Until now, the Chinese authorities have rejected this proposal on the grounds that media access would be granted as soon as the situation in Tibet was to become secure. Therefore, the international community has not yet been able to obtain reliable information on the number of casualties among the Tibetan protesters. In the latest discussions, the Chinese authorities indicated to the Slovenian Presidency that in the following days they would provide access to Tibet for a group of European journalists and thus allow reporting. The Presidency hopes that this will come true.

Let me underline that we have asked the Chinese authorities to explain the fate of those protesters who did not surrender to the authorities by the beginning of last week (17 March). The Chinese authorities replied that all who breached Chinese law would be brought to justice according to the legislation in force. At the same time, the EU has expressed concern that further arrests of protesters who expressed themselves peacefully would bring new tensions between the Tibetan community and the Hani (the Chinese community) in Tibet. The EU points out that domestic security and stability legislation must not be used to limit human rights.

Regarding the question of the organization of the Olympic games in China, let me point out that at the informal ministerial meeting held in Slovenia earlier last week (17 March 2008), EU Sports Ministers unanimously adopted a Declaration where they, together with the Presidents of the National Olympic Committees of the EU Member States, the Western Balkan countries and Norway, emphasised the importance of the Olympic ideal and values in promoting and supporting human rights. Ministers have spoken out against a boycott. However, they have not discussed the attendance at the opening ceremony.

The Slovenian Presidency believes that in the Year of Intercultural Dialogue, a boycott would not be the right answer to current political questions. It could signify losing an opportunity to promote human rights.

Concerns over the current situation in Tibet were also reflected at the session of the Human Rights Council held in Geneva. In the context of discussions on the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action, the EU urged both sides to refrain from using force and observe internationally recognised human rights.

EU dialogue with the Chinese authorities has continued throughout this week. Yesterday, the position of the Tibetan community was among other matters discussed in a telephone conversation between the President of the General Affairs and External Relations Council, Slovenian Foreign Minister Dr Dimitrij Rupel, and the Foreign Minister of the People's Republic of China, Yang Jiechi. Minister Rupel reiterated to Minister Yang the EU's desire for the Chinese authorities and the Dalai Lama or his representatives to enter into a dialogue as early as possible. At the same time, he urged the Chinese authorities to release, as soon as possible, those protesters who had peacefully expressed their opinion.


Thank you for your attention.


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Date: 28.03.2008