Matteo Mecacci

In Italy, to keep Tibet on the agenda of the European Union

ICT stand

The ICT stand inside the Modigliani Forum in Livorno during His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s teachings.

Benedetto Della Vedova, Matteo Mecacci, Vincent Metten

Undersecretary of State Benedetto Della Vedova, Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet and EU Policy Director Vincent Metten.

Last week, I had a week-long visit to Italy with the aim to keep Tibet on the agenda of Italian and EU institutions for the coming months. The occasion was given by the fact that Italy will chair the European Union for six months starting on July 1 and also by the presence of His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Italy. He was there for a series of teachings and a public talk, in Pomaia at the Lama Thsong Khapa Institute and in Livorno, from the 13 to the 15 of June.

In the days preceding the teachings, I was joined by Vincent Metten, EU policy Director of ICT, to participate in several meetings in Rome, both with Government representatives and Members of Parliament. Also, in those same days, the new Italian Prime Minister, Matteo Renzi, was in China for his first visit to Beijing since he assumed power. On these issues, I published an article in an Italian newspaper (English translation), and I also held a hearing before the human rights committee of the Chamber of Deputies.

This was an important occasion to renew and reinforce the call of ICT and of its supporters worldwide to EU and democratic countries to adopt a common and principled position on the issue of Tibet while dealing with China.

Finally, in Pomaia and Livorno I had the opportunity and the privilege to spend few days with thousands of people who had gathered from all over the world to welcome His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to participate in his teachings. Elena Gaita and Joel Hirv from the ICT Brussels office joined me to distribute thousands of reports, flyers, t-shirts and other gadgets to participants.

I was there for the entire duration of the teachings and I was privileged to be part of a joyous atmosphere. Finally, I also had a non-programmed chance to speak with His Holiness the Dalai Lama about our work at ICT and his kindness was once again remarkable.



Progress in China’s Human Rights in 2013… according to the Chinese Government

As it happens to many governments, there is a moment in the year when the Chinese Government presents an overall picture of the human rights situation in the country, and we at ICT are naturally interested in reading it, especially about Tibet. This year it happened last week.

What is peculiar about China is that while (democratic) governments present their annual human rights reports trying to be accurate and objective, China’s authorities continue to embrace propaganda starting from its title — “White Paper: Progress in China’s human rights in 2013” — not even contemplating that “progress” might not happen concerning the respect of human rights. What is striking is that despite the dire situations in Tibet and Xinjiang, there is not even the slightest recognition by the Chinese of the vast human rights violations that continue to happen.

A blog is not the place to make a systematic analysis of the claims presented in the White Paper, but while I encourage you to read it yourself. I wish to draw your attention to a few sentences.

In the chapter about the “Rights of ethnic minorities” all the paragraphs begin with celebratory remarks. A few examples:

“China has established the principle that all ethnic groups are equal and jointly participate in the management of state affairs on the constitutional, legal and systemic levels.”

“The political rights of ethnic minorities are fully guaranteed.”

“The socioeconomic rights of ethnic minorities are fully protected.”

“The cultural legacies of Tibet are effectively protected, and the local religion and traditional customs and social mores are respected.”

For a country that aspires to be accepted as an important and reliable international power, China clearly needs to make a lot of progress and democratic governments should never accept unreliable and unconfirmed information from it. We at ICT have a solution: if China thinks that the reality of the human rights situation in Tibet is such, it can prove it by inviting UN experts and human rights NGOs to Tibet to see it for themselves.


The “enjoyment” of social and economic rights of Tibetans

The people of my generation were just teenagers when the Berlin wall fell and the demise of the social and political system built around the Soviet Union took place.

I knew very little about politics and the world at the time, but that little was enough to remember Communist propaganda that was sometimes mentioned on TV celebrating a happy and florid land (images of beautiful Red Square on Moscow were in display) where people where not interested in “western freedoms,” but instead enjoyed “real equality”. After all, I was born in Italy, a country that had the biggest Communist party of western Europe, so I had some easy access to that propaganda.

When in 1989, I saw the images of the people of Berlin celebrating the fall of the Soviet system, it was clear to me who was lying and who was telling the truth.

Today, China, although still formally ruled by the Communist Party, is far different from the Soviet Union. Decades ago it decided to wholeheartedly embrace capitalism; a decision that has led to significant economic growth over the last 15 years.

What is not too different from the communist systems is the propaganda about justice and equality; has capitalism, without freedom and the rule of law – brought equality, in particular in Tibet, as the Chinese government claims?

Last week, ICT challenged China’s assertion that Tibetans enjoy equal social and economic rights and we did it in the place where all countries of the world are, in theory, supposed to be accountable for the respect of basic human rights.

ICT Germany’s Executive Director Kai Muller took the floor at the United Nations in Geneva and gave a clear testimony before the UN Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights that was reviewing China’s record.

You can read Kai’s testimony here. His case was particularly compelling regarding the forced relocation of Tibetan nomads, the denial of the right to education for Tibetan children and the control on religious freedom in Tibet.