By Tenzin Sangmo
DHARAMSHALA, March 16: An opinion piece cosigned by 10 members of the European Parliament and 25 members of national parliament from France, UK, Germany, Sweden and Belgium seeks to rebalance EU-China relation and gain unfettered access to Tibet.
The piece was published on Thursday on Euractiv, a European media platform specializing in the online publication of articles focusing on European policymaking.
The cross-party group of parliamentarians holds the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act passed by the US Congress last year as an exemplary move and wrote: “It is now up to Europe to consider ways of rebalancing its relationship with China.”
As in the case of the US, Europeans face huge restrictions in visiting Tibet, while Chinese citizens are free to travel throughout the whole territory of the European Union all year long.
The article makes note of the 60th Tibetan National Uprising Day observation around the world that decries the continuing dire situation in Tibet and called it high time to seek unfettered access to Tibet in keeping with its democratic values.
The article holds the increasing number of official Chinese delegations-led propaganda responsible for the waning awareness among the EU citizens of the human right situation in Tibet and of more than 150 cases of self-immolations.
“Today, foreigners, including EU citizens, require a number of special authorizations and permits in addition to their Chinese visa to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), which spans about half of Tibet,” said the piece.
Apart from the complete closure of TAR on historically significant days and months, the piece says, even foreign diplomats, parliamentarians, journalists and even UN officials are almost always denied visits to the region, other than on rare official tours carefully orchestrated by Chinese authorities.
The article cited the example of Tashi Wangchuk, who was sentenced to five years in prison last year for giving an interview to the New York Times about his efforts to protect Tibetans’ mother tongue as a case in point of how Tibetans are prevented from travelling outside China or passing information abroad.
As the EU and China celebrate the Year of Tourism, access to Tibet for European travellers remains limited. “If there is nothing to hide in Tibet, why has China for years prevented us from travelling freely in Tibet and seeing the situation for ourselves?” asks the piece.
The Foreign Correspondent Association has reported that it is easier for Beijing-based journalists to visit North Korea than Tibet. European journalists have been expelled from China in the past and others based in Europe claimed to have been subjected to pressure from China.
European citizens of Tibetan heritage are especially discriminated against by Chinese embassies and consulates when they apply for a travel permit.
The article concludes by saying not demanding access to Tibet would not only condone injustices but also “give a green light to China to continue manipulating our societies and eventually restrict the very rights and freedoms on which our democracies depend.”
The European Parliament’s latest report on EU-China relations also recommends reciprocity in access.