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 1 December 2010, the Committee on Foreign Affairs (AFET) of the European Parliament had an exchange of views behind closed doors with Markus Ederer, who was appointed EU Head of Delegation in China by High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy Catherine Ashton. As this was not a public hearing, it is hard to know what questions Mr. Ederer was asked regarding the strategy he will pursue as EU Ambassador to China. But indeed, I know what I would have liked to be discussed: the possibility of establishing a “Tibet Desk” within the Delegation of the European Union to China.
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ICT works hard in our European offices (Amsterdam, Berlin and Brussels) to reach out to European policymakers on Tibet. It’s never an easy thing to do, especially since the degree of institutional analysis on China in the EU is less than that in the United States.
There are a few reasons for this. First, the EU remains a gathering of 27 separate member states, each with its own bureaucracies and national interests. So despite the EU’s size and population, the lack of a federalised government or a single foreign policy means that China analysis remains parochial and, at the same time, spread out across Europe.
Secondly, whereas the US has strategic interests in the Asia-Pacific region, the EU member states view their relations with China primarily in terms of trade (you can argue that the UK and Portugal still show some interest in their former colonies, Hong Kong and Macau). This means that China analysis focuses on trade imbalances, anti-dumping, protectionism and so on. It was precisely this lack of strategic overview that sleepwalked the EU into regional problems a few years ago when some European leaders started to talk fondly of lifting the EU’s arms embargo on China. Looking only to cash in on trade with China, the EU neglected the views of Washington, Tokyo and Taipei – all of whom have great unease about increased sales of sophisticated weaponry to the PLA.
Europe needs to consider the strategic, political and human rights elements of China’s rise more seriously and to conduct analysis comprehensively. To assist in that effort, ICT has launched a new website at www.tibetpolicy.eu specifically targeting the needs of European policymakers and policy organizations seeking a central point to gather insights on Tibet. The website will cover the following areas:
- News on the situation inside Tibet, as well as how developments in China might impact Tibetan areas
- ICT research reports, as well as external analysis and online video documentaries
- News of international political developments related to Tibet, with a particular focus on Europe
- Policy recommendations from ICT on specific issues, such as the Tibetan economy or EU presidencies
Key components of ICT’s work are policy advocacy and monitoring what is happening inside Tibet. This website merges ICT’s research and policy perspectives so governments and the wider policy community have a trusted resource designed specifically to help inform their decisions on Tibet and China.
To visit the new website, go to www.tibetpolicy.eu and let us know what you think.
(Photo Caption: The European Union: 27 members and counting)