|Author (Person)||Cronin, David|
|Series Title||European Voice|
|Series Details||Vol.12, No.22, 8.6.06|
The Dalai Lama, who visited the EU's institutions last week, had a simple message for EU policymakers: do not forget Tibet.
China, the world's most populous country and the EU's second largest trading partner, offers many opportunities to Western business. There is an obvious temptation for politicians in Europe to concentrate on commerce, overlooking human rights abuses in both Tibet and mainland China.
"Europe's relations with China in the economic field are very essential," said Tibet's spiritual leader. "At the same time, there are principles such as human rights, religious freedom, freedom of information, the rule of law and democracy. Some governments stand very firm on these principles; some are weak."
During talks in Brussels last week the Dalai Lama recommended that the EU's governments should appoint an envoy tasked solely with working on Tibet. The US took such a step in 2001, when the Bush administration named Paula Dobriansky its special co-ordinator on Tibetan issues.
"There would be both a symbolic and practical importance to such a gesture," said the Dala Lama. "Having one person solely designated to work for Tibet would mean that person would have more knowledge so that they could provide a fuller picture to member states."
In recent years France has been campaigning - so far unsuccessfully - to end the EU's embargo on selling arms to China which was introduced after the 1989 Tiananmen Square massacre. "I was always against the arms trade," said the Dalai Lama, who has urged his compatriots to pursue their quest for autonomy by peaceful means. "Selling arms to countries like Burma [Myanmar] should be treated very carefully. China is also in the category of dictatorships and closed societies."
But he said that he would not devote his trip to France next month to talking about the arms trade. "The main reason for visiting France is to teach those people who desire to study Buddhism. If some French media ask me the same question you have asked me [on the arms embargo], I will give them the same answer. Besides that, I have no political agenda."
Born Tenzin Gyatso in July 1935, the Dalai Lama has been in exile since 1959 - ten years after China occupied Tibet. Today, he lives in the Indian town of Dharamsala. His 'middle way' policy advocates that Tibet may remain part of China, provided that it is granted autonomy and that it is run as a single unit (Tibet is currently split into five administrative units).
Six official meetings have taken place between China and representatives of the Dalai Lama since dialogue between the two sides resumed after an almost decade-long hiatus in 2002.
A paper prepared by the Dalai Lama's aides following the most recent meeting in February states that both sides now have "a sense of the conditions necessary for resolving the differences". But no response has yet been received to a request made at that meeting for the Dalai Lama to be allowed to undertake a pilgrimage in mainland China.
"That has been my intention since 1954," he said. "I asked the Chinese department concerned then if I could visit some of the sacred places. At that time, they told me 'the roads are bad'. Now after 50 years have passed, the Chinese government will have to find another excuse."
The Dalai Lama has spoken about a 'cultural genocide' within Tibet. The country's 5.8 million ethnic Tibetan inhabitants have been forced to adopt Chinese language and customs, with many restrictions placed on the practice of Buddhism.
The Dalai Lama said that he saw no sign of improve-ment on the treatment of political prisoners.
"There has been intensified political education in monasteries and with that movement, there has been an increase in arrests. Sometimes after arrest, there is a lot of torture. When some ex-prisoners have told me about their experiences - it's really very sad," he said.
He added that China's heavy-handed tactics in Tibet would ultimately prove counterproductive. So too, he suggested, censorship of Chinese political dissidents on the internet "causes reduced faith and trust" in the Beijing authorities.
He hoped dialogue with Beijing would lead to a resolution of the Tibetan issue, which, he said, was bigger than him.
"For some Chinese officials, the Tibetan issue wholly depends on one person: the Dalai Lama. That is wrong."
The Dalai Lama, spiritual leader of Tibet in exile, visited the EU's institutions calling upon EU policymakers not to forget his country.
|Countries / Regions||China, Europe|