The Lithuanian Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Leonidas Donskis invited ICT to give a lecture on Tibet at the Magnus Vytautas University, in Kaunas, the second largest city and former capital of Lithuania. On September 6, I gave a presentation on “Tibet’s resistance to Chinese oppression.” Around 150 students, including from the Political Sciences Faculty, attended the conference. This event took place few days ahead of His Holiness’ visit to two Baltic countries (Lithuania and Latvia).
The presentation focused on how Tibetans inside Tibet are finding new ways to resist to Chinese assimilation policies as well as different tools and means to try to preserve their very distinct culture and identity. The acts of resistance were divided into different categories: individual attitudes or acts of protests (hidden use of banned pictures of the Dalai Lama, Lhakar… ), collective gathering and protests (2008 protests, language protests…) and art as a tool of resistance, in particular since the 2008 protests (i.e. songs, poems, paintings..).
Lithuania currently holds the six-monthly rotating Presidency of the Council (1st July-31st December 2013). ICT has released a press statement on 1st July containing key recommendations addressed to Lithuanian authorities, including the need to “ensure the alignment of national positions, stating in an EU common position that it is the right of all EU Member States to welcome and meet with the Dalai Lama and legitimate representatives of the Tibetan movement in whatever manner they deem appropriate and without interference or threats from the Chinese government.”
ICT also recommended a more robust EU stand in promoting the resumption of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue and reinforcing international cooperation on Tibet with like-minded countries, in particular by using the upcoming Universal Periodic Review on China, in October this year at the UN Human Rights Council, to press the Chinese Government on the situation in Tibet.
ICT’s submission to the Lithuanian Presidency highlighted the high responsibility of countries such as Lithuania that have themselves experienced foreign occupation. In Lithuania, self-immolations have also been carried out as political protests against Communist rule. Lithuania regained independence in 1991 following 51 years of forcible inclusion in the Soviet Union, which was not recognized by most countries in Western Europe and the United States.
Vincent Metten is EU Policy Director at ICT-Europe.
On June 19, 2013 the European Parliament held its 97th Tibet Intergroup meeting, hosting a conference on the state of Tibet’s environment, sponsored by Members of Parliament (MEPs) Thomas Mann (European People’s Party), Satu Hassi (Greens) and Lidia Joanna Geringer de Oedenberg (Socialists & Democrats), co-organized by the Office of Tibet in Brussels, ICT Brussels and the Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO).
In their opening speeches, both MEPs Thomas Mann and Satu Hassi highlighted how the destruction of the environment in Tibet is interlinked with human rights violations, and that Tibet’s environment is not only a local and regional issue but also a global one. Mrs. Hassi also mentioned the recent disaster at the Gyama copper and gold mine near Lhasa, which killed 83 miners.
Keynote speaker of the conference, entitled “Tibet’s Environment: Denuding, Degrading & Depopulating”, was Tenzin Norbu, Director of the Environmental and Development Desk of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA). He gave a presentation focusing on resource exploitation, nomads’ resettlement and climate change. Being a huge source of water reserve, Tibet is often referred to as “Asia’s water tower” or the “Third Pole.” Many Asian rivers and millions of people in downstream countries depend on the Tibetan glaciers. However, the 46.000 glaciers on the Tibetan plateau are retreating very fast and if this trend continues, more than 60% of them will have melted in the next 40 years. While stressing Tibet’s richness in natural resources, Tenzin Norbu explained that these resources are in danger of disappearing soon due to over-exploitation of minerals and forests on the Tibetan plateau. As the Chinese government is undertaking development plans that foresee the construction of railroads, highways and dams in the region, Tibetan nomads, who have been living on the Tibetan plateau for centuries, are now being forcibly relocated, which is preventing them from living their traditional lifestyle. 1.43 million nomads have already been moved to Chinese settlement camps and further 185.500 families are expected to be moved by the end of 2013.
Tenzin Norbu’s presentation was followed by the screening of the short documentary “From Nomad to Nobody” by Michael Buckley, giving a rare insight into the life of Tibetan nomads and the many challenges they currently face.
In his concluding remarks, MEP Thomas Mann highlighted that the European Parliament would continue to strongly support the Tibetan cause and announced Tsering Woeser’s candidature for the 2013 Sakharov Prize, a very prestigious prize awarded every year by the European Parliament to honor individuals or organizations who have dedicated their lives to the defense of human rights and freedom of thought. Former recipients of the prize have been Nelson Mandela (1988), Aung San Suu Kyi (1990) and Reporter Without Borders (2005).
 For more information on the documentary, see http://wildyakfilms.com/nomadworld/index.htm
Following a successful experience in 2012, ICT Brussels decided to do a second edition of the Tibet Lobby Day. Like last year the activities were held in March. The event, which lasted for three days, coincided not only with the coming of H.E Kirti Rinpoche to the “European capital” but also with the European Solidarity Rally for Tibet which took place on March the 10th.
In its 2013 edition more than ten Tibetans joined from several EU and non-EU European countries. EU countries included Sweden, France, the Netherlands, Hungary and the United Kingdom and non-EU countries were Norway and Switzerland. Lobbyists included Presidents of different Tibetan Communities, students as well as Chungdak Koren, member of Tibetan Parliament in Exile, who came from Norway.
On March the 6th a training day took place at ICT’s office in Brussels. ICT hosted the lobbyists at our headquarters here in Brussels. They had the opportunity of receiving practical tools by experts of NGOs like Amnesty International or International Federation for Human Rights. A detailed inside view of advocacy in European politics was shared by an assistant of a Member of European Parliament. Training also included the participation of academics that provided those who attended with more theoretical advice, namely on improving communication and how to successfully convey a given message.
For the following two days – the 7th and the 8th – a quite intensive agenda included a series of almost twenty meetings in the European Parliament, with MEPs or staff members belonging to different political groups. By and large, self-immolations were the crucial topic on the table during the meetings, while they did not necessarily consume the whole of the interaction with representatives. Among the main requests presented was the need of assessing the real situation in Tibet by means of a fact-finding mission and open doors to foreign and independent press on the terrain itself. Another recurrent ask was the appointment of an EU Special Coordinator for Tibet, a request already mentioned in several EP resolutions on Tibet – including one adopted in 2012 – but which still waits to see the light of day.
Time and again, lobbyists insisted on the role the EU can and must play to address the grievances of Tibetans in Tibet. The meetings were also the perfect occasion to deepen collaboration with some of the more active actors on Tibet issues inside the only democratically elected institution of the EU. To this regard it warms the heart to see that representatives continue showing real concern about the current state of affairs inside Tibet. Exchanges of views between all participants have indeed been very fruitful and have helped give shape to very concrete ideas for future advocacy action with the European institutions.
I had the pleasure to attend the 6th International Conference of Tibet Support Groups in Surajkund, India, from November 5-7 along with five of my ICT colleagues. It was sponsored by the Core Group for Tibetan Cause, India, and facilitated by the Central Tibetan Administration’s Department of Information and International Relation.
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