Siim Kallas (on behalf of Commissioner Benita Ferrero-Waldner)
Vice-President of the European Commission and Commissioner for Administrative Affairs, Audit and Anti-Fraud
Statement on the situation in Tibet
Strasbourg, 10 March 2005
The situation in Tibet remains high on the political and human rights agenda of EU-China relations. The EU is concerned about the preservation of the cultural, religious and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people, and more in particular about the restrictive conditions imposed by central authorities for the exercise of religious freedom in the Tibet Autonomous Region.
Recently, some Tibetan monks have been sentenced, allegedly for possessing portraits of the Dalai-Lama. We heard that some have been detained and beaten. We are also still waiting, in spite of continuous requests, for information on the whereabouts of the Dalai-Lama’s choice as the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima.
We have seized every opportunity to regularly raise these concerns with our Chinese interlocutors. We did it at the highest political level, as it has been recently the case at the occasion of the 7th bilateral Summit held in The Hague on December 8, 2004. We did it also regularly in the framework of the ongoing bilateral dialogue on human rights. During the last session of this dialogue held in Luxembourg on 24/25 February this year, the issue has been again extensively addressed. We have also brought to the attention of the Chinese authorities the situation of Tibetan individuals, together with individuals from all over China, who have been sentenced for having freely expressed their opinion or their belief. The case of Tenzin Deleg Rinpoche has become emblematic. We fully share the view that the European Parliament has recently expressed in January in a resolution on Tibet and we will continue urging the Chinese authorities to release this monk at the earliest possible date.
We do hope that a solution compatible with the Chinese sovereignty and the respect of the Tibetan population will be found soon. In our view, to reach this ultimate goal, there is no other alternative but a peaceful process based on dialogue. We have called for years, and will continue to call, for such a dialogue. We therefore fully support the consultations which has been taking place over the past years between Beijing and the representatives of the Dalai-Lama. We welcome the fact that the two Special Envoys of the Dalai-Lama have been able to visit China last September for the third time since the resumption of the contacts in September 2002. We met, as we often did in the past, Kelsang Gyaltsen, one of the two Dalai-Lama’s Special envoys, upon his return from China and we felt encouraged by his positive assessment of the visit. We understand that progress have been made to narrow the gap between the existing respective positions and we hope that these developments will encourage the start of a meaningful and direct dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai-Lama which will hopefully lead to the recognition of a genuine autonomy of the Tibetan region. We firmly believe that only such a direct dialogue can be productive to a lasting solution of the Tibetan issue. In our view, the opening of a direct dialogue should not be made subject to any precondition. On the other hand, the respective parties should refrain from taking any step which would compromise the establishment of a climate of confidence which appears as indispensable if a solution were to be reached. In all circumstances, we would condemn violence from any quarter as a solution to the problem of Tibet. The Commission would certainly be prepared to become more involved in the finding of a solution if it were the wish of the parties most concerned.
We will, no doubt, continue to pay the greatest attention to the situation in Tibet and to press for conditions which allow the Tibetans to fully exercise their basic political, religious and cultural rights and permit the cultural identity of Tibet to be preserved.