On Wednesday 8 December Tibetans and Tibet supporters from across Europe will converge on The Hague to urge European and Chinese leaders attending the annual EU-China Summit to place Tibet at the heart of the EU-China partnership. A series of public events focusing on the plight of the imprisoned Tibetan religious teacher Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and protesting against the possible lifting of the EU's arms embargo against China will be held on the central Plein during the day and will be followed by a peace march through the city to the Chinese Embassy.
In recent years, the EU and China have forged a "strategic partnership", outlined in policy papers put forward by both. However, the partnership has primarily revolved around developing both parties' economic interests without directly addressing the severe ongoing human rights abuses throughout China and the unresolved issue of Tibet. For the EU-China relationship to truly flourish, these longstanding issues of concern must be resolved.
Demonstrators will seek the release of Tibetan monk, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who is awaiting execution for alleged terrorist activities. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a well-known and respected religious teacher, was sentenced to death with a two-year suspension on 2 December 2002, on what appear to be trumped-up bombing charges. He had become the target of the Chinese authorities for his work fostering Tibetan Buddhism, developing social and cultural institutions and his allegiance to the Dalai Lama. Chinese officials have said recently that the two-year suspension comes to an end on January 23rd 2005.
Ms Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of ICT Europe said "The Chinese government should stop using the rule of law and its international treaty obligations as PR tools - the case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is yet another tragic example that the actual situation on the ground is far from the image the PRC is trying to present to international gatherings such as the EU Summit next week ."
This public protest follows today's publication of an open letter to the European leaders by a coalition of NGOs against the unconditional lifting of the arms embargo on China. Initiated in 1989 after the violent suppression of the student-led Tiananmen Square protests and continued use of force by the PLA against civilian protesters in Tibet, the embargo sends a strong message to China that its record on human rights must improve.
Despite the European Parliament's overwhelming support for the retention of the embargo, it is likely that the Summit will see the EU leaders divided in the face of Chinese pressure to lift the ban. Germany and France have been particularly keen to see the embargo lifted, allowing their own national arms industries access to the lucrative Chinese market.
"A decision to end the embargo without far-reaching and measurable improvements in human rights from China would be a surrender of principle and a political signal to a repressive regime like China that the EU places commercial considerations above fundamental human rights. China has not earned any 'reward' from the EU, and least of all in the form of weapons, which China has shown it is only too willing to use internally against political dissent," Ms Jampa commented.
The case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and the Tibetan Lobsang Dondrub, who was convicted with him, are examples of the human rights abuses against Tibetans in the PRC today. Immediately after Lobsang Dondrub's sentence was approved on 26 January 2003 he was taken away and executed despite earlier Chinese assurances to the US and EU governments, that his case would be reviewed.
The demonstrators will present almost 32.000 expressions of concern to the Dutch Foreign Ministry calling for the EU to promote substantive dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama and calling for the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.Open Letter to the European Union from the European Coalition Against Lifting the EU's Embargo on Weapons Sales to China
December 3, 2004
In the lead up to the seventh EU-China Summit on 8 December 2004 in The Hague, our organisations call on the EU to retain the weapons sales embargo on China. An end to the embargo cannot be justified without significant improvement of human rights in China.
We regret that some European Union leaders have seemingly dismissed the repeated concerns of the European Parliament, human rights groups and the citizens of Europe by indicating that they are "ready to give a positive signal to China" with regard to lifting its embargo on weapons sales.
The arms embargo was imposed as a direct response to the Tiananmen Square massacre in June 1989 and following the similarly brutal quelling of civil unrest by the People's Liberation Army (PLA) in Tibet in the same year. The international outrage over the killings and arrests of thousands of students and workers by the PLA prompted the European countries to react with firmness.
Any lifting of the arms embargo would potentially lead to European weapons technology being used to suppress peaceful resistance by the people of Tibet, East Turkistan (now known as the Xinjiang Uighur Autonomous Region), Inner Mongolia, against Taiwan, or end up in the hands of the North Korean, Burmese and/or Sudanese military, who are privileged recipients of Chinese arms.
Last week the European Parliament voted overwhelmingly in favour of maintaining the embargo, arguing that China must take "concrete steps with a view to improving the human rights situation" (17 November). In addition, the Former European Commissioner, Mr. Chris Patten, said at the European Parliament in Strasbourg that the lifting of the embargo should be linked to concrete improvements in the human rights in China (16 November).
The Coalition's member organisations call on the European Union and its member states to maintain the embargo until significant improvement is made to the human rights situation in the People's Republic of China. The Coalition calls upon China to:
- Revise its position on the Tiananmen Square pro-democracy demonstrations, which are still described by the authorities as "counter-revolutionary" incidents, and stop harassing and imprisoning people who defend the memory of the Tiananmen Square students, including Huang Qi and Jiang Yanyong;
- Free all prisoners of conscience, including those detained after the June 1989 events, and to exonerate the victims of the 4 June 1989 massacre by recognising the Tiananmen Mothers movement;
- State that it will not use weapons against its own citizens, the people of Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia or Taiwan;
- Demonstrate its commitment to non-violent resolutions of disputes by acknowledging the Dalai Lama's significant concessions and engaging in formal dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to ensure a negotiated solution to the future status of Tibet;
- Comply with the United Nations human rights mechanisms and ratifies the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Ottawa treaty on banned weapons, especially anti-personnel mines.
- Adopt a moratorium on executions as a first step towards the abolition of the death penalty as set forth in the EU Guidelines on the death penalty.
Europe showed leadership in imposing this sanction on China in 1989 for "acts of repression against those who legitimately claim their democratic rights." Major human rights violations continue to take place.
The EU is attempting to shift public attention from the reasons the embargo was first imposed - the systematic human rights abuses in China, which continue today - to its own Code of Conduct on arms exports. The Coalition encourages the strengthening of the Code and reiterates the European Parliament's calls for this to be "legally binding", however, the European Parliament, Amnesty International and others have recently highlighted significant limitations to the EU's Code of Conduct for Arms Exports, which some EU countries have erroneously claimed would serve as a safeguard in the event of the embargo on China being lifted.
Moreover China has identified the lifting of the arms embargo as a significant component of its EU China strategy published in October 2003. To remove the arms embargo before securing a significant and substantive improvement in human rights in China and Tibet would be an unparalleled error.
The Coalition holds that it is erroneous for the EU to allow the resumption of weapons sales to China solely on the basis of strengthening its own Code of Conduct and its bilateral human rights dialogues. China must first make significant improvements to its human rights situation before the arms embargo should be lifted. Maintaining the embargo also has a positive symbolic value for pro-democracy activists, political prisoners, ethnic minorities and all those who are not resigned to the Chinese Communist Party's dictatorship
The European Coalition Against Lifting the EU's Embargo on Weapons Sales to China, consisting of:
- Reporters Sans Fronti貥s
- International Society for Human Rights (IGFM/ISHR)
- International Campaign for Tibet
- Laogai Research Foundation - Harry Wu
- Chinese Democratic Party Overseas Exiles Headquaters - Xu Wenli
- World Uyghur Congress
- Save Tibet, Austria
- Les Amis du Tibet, Belgium
- The Tibet Support Committee, Denmark
- Students for a Free Tibet, Denmark
- brian篮05-urgence.tibet, France
- France-Tibet, France
- Tibet Support Group Ireland, Ireland
- Associazione Italia-Tibet, Italy
- Zida Cels, Latvia
- Les Amis du Tibet, Luxembourg
- Polish-Tibetan Friendship Association, Poland
- Comite de Apoyo al Tibet, Spain
- Swedish Tibet Committee, Sweden
- Free Tibet Campaign, UK
- Tibet Society, UK
- Students for a Free Tibet, UK
- All Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet - John Wilkinson MP, UK
- Estonian Institute of Buddhism, Estonia
- Comite de soutien au Peuple Tibetain, France