Tuesday

12th Dec 2017

Tibet leader to EU: Do not believe myth of Chinese supremacy

Tibet's new political leader, Lobsang Sangay, has said EU politicians should not bow to China in the belief it is becoming the next world superpower.

Fresh from a high-profile trip to Washington, Sangay spoke to EUobserver in Brussels on his first tour of EU capitals after the Tibetan diaspora in April voted him prime-minister-in-exile, ending a centuries-old tradition of theocracy under the Dalai Lamas.

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Sangay is touring EU capitals after his election earlier this year (Photo: europarl.europa.eu)

The 43-year-old Harvard University law scholar, now based in India, said his election heralds a new wave of secular diplomacy on behalf of Tibetan autonomy: "I am a Tibetan and a Buddhist. I know my prayers, but I do not pray for hours each day. I pray from time to time, but I am modern and secular in my orientation."

Sangay on Tuesday (29 November) addressed the European Parliament's foreign affairs committtee, which billed him as the "Prime Minister of the Central Tibetan Administration" despite grumbling by the Chinese EU mission. He met other MEPs and EU officials in an "unofficial capacity", but his interlocutors did not want their names made public after receiving Chinese complaints.

"Before and after such visits, we get letters saying the Tibetans are wolves in sheep's clothing - that kind of stuff ... I hope it doesn't one day come to what happened in South Africa," a parliament official said, referring to South Africa's decision in October to decline a visa for the Dalai Lama.

Asked if he is concerned the EU is going soft on values for the sake of strategic relations, Sangay said EU politicians should not believe the narrative that China is becoming an economic superpower.

He pointed to studies which say the Indian model of organic growth, next to China's model of foreign capital and state-run firms, will see India move ahead of China in the coming years: "As long as a process is democratic and based on rule of law, rather than top-down, there is more chance of its being fair and sustainable. Because of censorship, we do not see the damage [the Chinese government] is doing. We don't understand the ramifications of the economic and political decisions made by the leadership."

Lack of proper oversight on dams built on rivers such as the Brahmaputra and the Mekong could cause environmental chaos in future, he warned.

Political persecution and mass-scale mineral exploitation in Tibet is also causing "a scar on the psyche of the people" that could end in upheaval, he added: "I am not predicting anything, but the Arab Spring also came out of nowhere."

He noted that Chinese statisticians have been caught lying on GDP growth: "The Chinese economy might seem to be booming. But what is really happening on the ground is difficult to asses ... Reports say they are spending $1.4 trillion on an internal stimulus package. But at the same time, China is also spending more on internal security than on external security."

For his part, the spokesman of the Chinese EU mission, Wang Xining, rubbished Sangay's views.

"He's not a 'prime minister of the Tibetan government' because his government is not recognised by any legal state in the world. The only people who call him 'prime minister' do not understand the Tibetan problem," Wang said.

Asked if the sudden increase in self-immolations by Tibetan protesters - 11 this year - is a bad sign, Wang accused Sangay's movement of inciting unrest: "They are encouraging young people to do this. About one hour after it happens, images are put on their website. The so-called Tibetan government is behind this. They are taking young people's lives - for me, it's crazy."

China on 12 December is bringing its man in charge of Tibet - Zhu Weiqun - to the EU capital to tell EU officials its side of the story. It has not decided if he will face press.

Commenting on Chinese diplomacy, Sangay said officials give a false impression they are unmoved by questions on human rights.

"That's how good they are. They have this imposing manner and some people buy it and submit to it. But each question asked, each article written gives hope to people. [Chinese vice foreign minister] Fu Ying might act tough, but I'm sure when she gets home it's like 'oof' - it's tiring as a human being ... When the questions stop they will think they have prevailed."

Sangay blamed the self-immolations on "desperation" caused by "isolation". "Since my trip to the US, we haven't had a single self-immolation. So I think my trips are sending a message back home that there is hope," he said.

Asked what is his strongest asset against China's diplomatic machine, he answered: "Really, the truth."

Focus

China shows interest in sponsoring EU bail-outs

Chinese diplomats are awaiting a detailed proposal on taking part in the EU bail-out fund, the EFSF, while promising not to push for market economy status or lifting the arms embargo in return.

Focus

Barroso to China: EU is not falling apart

European Commission chief Jose Manuel Barroso has told the Chinese public that the EU is going to become a fully-fledged "political union" after the financial crisis.

Two EU states break ranks on Jerusalem

Hungary and the Czech Republic have broken EU ranks on US recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital despite warnings it could bring back 'darker times'.

Watchdogs concerned by EU-US data pact

European data protection authorities tell US to improve oversight on 'Privacy Shield' scheme, otherwise they would go to the EU's highest court.

News in Brief

  1. EU to Israel: Don't expect us to move embassies
  2. EU Commission condemns anti-semitic 'Jerusalem' protests
  3. Ministers have 'lots of questions' on new CAP plans
  4. Commission: Brexit agreement is 'deal between gentlemen'
  5. 25 EU states sign defence cooperation pact
  6. Netanyahu wants 'hardy' talks with EU on Jerusalem
  7. French centre-right elects new leader
  8. Germany and UK increase arms sales

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. ACCACFOs Risk Losing Relevance If They Do Not Embrace Technology
  2. UNICEFMake the Digital World Safer for Children & Increase Access for the Most Disadvantaged
  3. European Jewish CongressWelcomes Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel and Calls on EU States to Follow Suit
  4. Mission of China to the EUChina and EU Boost Innovation Cooperation Under Horizon 2020
  5. European Gaming & Betting AssociationJuncker’s "Political" Commission Leaves Gambling Reforms to the Court
  6. AJC Transatlantic InstituteAJC Applauds U.S. Recognition of Jerusalem as Israel’s Capital City
  7. EU2017EEEU Telecom Ministers Reached an Agreement on the 5G Roadmap
  8. European Friends of ArmeniaEU-Armenia Relations in the CEPA Era: What's Next?
  9. Mission of China to the EU16+1 Cooperation Injects New Vigour Into China-EU Ties
  10. EPSUEU Blacklist of Tax Havens Is a Sham
  11. EU2017EERole of Culture in Building Cohesive Societies in Europe
  12. ILGA EuropeCongratulations to Austria - Court Overturns Barriers to Equal Marriage

Latest News

  1. Alignment with EU is 'last resort', May tells MPs
  2. Iceland: further from EU membership than ever
  3. Israel presses Jerusalem claim in EU capital
  4. From dark coal toward a brighter future
  5. UK casts doubt on EU deal in 'bizarre' twist
  6. Romania wants EU signal on Schengen membership
  7. Germany says China using LinkedIn to recruit informants
  8. No chance of expanding EU warrant crime list

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Centre Maurits CoppietersCelebrating Diversity, Citizenship and the European Project With Fundació Josep Irla
  2. European Healthy Lifestyle AllianceUnderstanding the Social Consequences of Obesity
  3. Union for the MediterraneanMediterranean Countries Commit to Strengthening Women's Role in Region
  4. Bio-Based IndustriesRegistration for BBI JU Stakeholder Forum about to close. Last chance to register!
  5. European Heart NetworkThe Time Is Ripe for Simplified Front-Of-Pack Nutrition Labelling
  6. Counter BalanceNew EU External Investment Plan Risks Sidelining Development Objectives
  7. EU2017EEEAS Calls for Eastern Partnership Countries to Enter EU Market Through Estonia
  8. Dialogue PlatformThe Turkey I No Longer Know
  9. World Vision7 Million Children at Risk in the DRC: Donor Meeting to Focus on Saving More Lives
  10. EPSU-Eurelectric-IndustriAllElectricity European Social Partners Stand up for Just Energy Transition
  11. European Friends of ArmeniaSignature of CEPA Marks a Fresh Start for EU-Armenia Relations
  12. Nordic Council of MinistersNordic Energy Ministers Pledge to Work More Closely at Nordic and EU Level