BRUSSELS: Two MEPs, Mr Edward McMillan-Scott, Vice-President of the European Parliament responsible for human rights and Democracy and Ms Kristiina Ojuland hosted the second annual seminar on Tibet entitled “Tibet in Flames : the unfolding personal and collective tragedy of the Tibetan people” highlighting the spate of self-immolations in the European Parliament today.
The seminar was attended by over one hundred people including members of the European Parliament, Parliamentary assistants, diplomats, Representatives of non-governmental organisations such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, Tibet Support Groups, members of the Belgium Tibetan Community, EU officials and the member of the Press.
The seminar took place in two panels : the first panelists consisted of Dr Françoise Robin, an associate professor of Tibetan language and literature at INALCO, Paris, Ms Dechen Pemba, the editor of the website High Peaks Pure Earth that monitors the Tibetan blogosphere and translates Tibetan blogs into English, Mr Lama Jabb, a Tibetan currently pursuing PhD in Modern Tibetan Literature at Oxford University and Ms Rigzin Choedon Genkhang, Special Assistant to the Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama at the office of Tibet, Brussels.
Mr McMillan-Scott who chaired the first panel, introduced the speakers and welcomed the audience to the seminar following which a one minute silence was observed in honour of the Tibetans who self-immolated for the cause of Tibet.
“It is sad reality that it has been over six decades since Communist China’s invasion and Tibet is still occupied. Tibetans living inside Tibet are still repressed and terrorised by their invaders” said Mr. McMillan-Scott.
He further said, in the last year we have witnessed an even more tragic turn of events with as many as 31 Tibetans now having self-immolated. The act itself, forbidden in the Buddhist faith, demonstrates the desperation of Tibetan people at the continued illegal occupation of Tibet by China. Despite the enormous sacrifice – with at least 22 confirmed dead so far – the international community has not spoken out strongly, and has passed no sanctions against China.
He continued saying that it was time for Europeans – politicians and citizens – to show their support for Tibet, and to increase the pressure for a harder line to be taken on China’s continues violations of human rights.
Dr Françoise Robin, gave an account on the language protests that took place inside Tibet and informed the audience about Zhu Weiqun’s call to end nationality labelling in PRC which would threaten the cultural identities of the minorities including the Tibetans.
Ms Pemba, told the audience that she often noticed during debates on Tibet in the free world, the voices of people from inside Tibet were missing. She therefore, shared a poem entitled “mourning” by a Tibetan blogger from Tibet and the transcripts of Lama Soepa la’s testimony in English. She also shared with the audience concerns being raised by the Chinese and Tibetan bloggers from inside China on the recent spate of self-immolations in Tibet and also shared the comments being posted by the visitors to these blogs.
Mr Strider, in his speech emphasized the importance of sending a fact-finding delegation to Tibet and shared the testimony of Mr Jampal Yeshi who self-immolated on 26 March 2012.
Mr Jabb, explained the self-immolations through the historical context and said it was a product of resistance since the invasion of Tibet and the wrong policies of the Chinese government. He further added that the suppression of the Tibetan language by the Chinese government was certainly one of the reasons for the current protests.
Ms Genkhang, pointed out that the wrong policies of the Chinese government for the past six decades were the real causes of Tibetan resentment and that the self-immolators were its victims. While calling on the International Community for its support, she said that it was vital in sustaining the hopes of the Tibetan people and thus the Tibetan movement non-violent. She called on the EU;
To urge the Chinese government to refrain from using excessive and disproportionate force against unarmed and peaceful protesters
To open up Tibet to UN and international observers and media
To send a fact finding delegation to Tibet
To urge the Chinese government to immediately resume dialogue for a way forward on the basis of the Middle Way policy initiated by His Holiness the Dalai Lama
To appoint an EU Special Coordinator for Tibetan Affairs to send a strong message of EU’s concern, to monitor closely all aspects of the human rights situation in Tibet and coordinate with UN and other international agencies, to facilitate the process of dialogue for an early mutually beneficial and acceptable solution to the current problems as supported by the European Parliament in its successive resolutions on Tibet.
The second panel consisted of MEPs such as Mr Thomas Mann, President of the Tibet Intergroup, Ms Eva Lichtenberger, Vice-President of the Tibet Intergroup, Mr Ramon Tremosa i Balcells, Mr Csaba Sogor and Dr Gerhard Sabathil, representative of the European External Action Service (EEAS). All the MEPs expressed their concern regarding the ongoing spate of self-immolations and called on the EEAS to consider the appointment of the EU special coordinator for Tibetan Affairs.
After the intervention of the panelists, the floor was open to the audience for a question and answer session.
Ms Ojuland in her closing remark said that this seminar on Tibet was not the last one and that she would continue pushing for the appointment of the EU Special Coordinator for Tibetan Affairs and her proposition to visit Tibet along with His Holiness the Dalai Lama was still open.