21st Sep 2023

EU leaders urged to speak out on China

European leaders should not shy away from criticising China's recent crackdown on protests in Tibet out of fear of damaging economic relations with Beijing, the speaker of the Tibetan parliament-in-exile has said.

"Tibetans in Tibet today at the risk of their life (...) are voicing their resentment against Chinese rule. They are doing this at the cost of their lives thinking that the European countries who have the political power, who have the economical power (...) will speak up," Karma Chophel said in Brussels on Wednesday (26 March).

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  • Tibet's parliament in exile (Photo: Asaf)

"The European leaders should not compromise economics with morality, with lives of innocent people."

He said that Tibet's government-in-exile had "reliable sources" within Tibet, who could confirm that 135 people have been killed, while 1,000 other people have been injured and 400 arrested during the clashes with Chinese forces in the last two weeks.

But he added that given the difficulty of obtaining information, the figures could actually be ten times higher.

Tibetans see the Himalayan region as "occupied and colonised" by China since 1959.

Some two weeks ago, after several days of anti-government protests led by Tibetan monks, violence erupted in Tibet's capital Lhasa prompting international condemnation, as well as protests and demonstrations.

Speaking at a press conference in the European Parliament, Mr Chophel made several pleas to the international community, including to stop "the killings of innocent Tibetans" and to free those arrested during the protests.

He also called for the setting up of an independent international observation group to go to Tibet "to see what the situation really is like there".

"We try to awake the conscience of the international community to the happenings in Tibet [as] the situation is very urgent. It is a crisis situation", Mr Chophel said.

The Olympics must go on

But Mr Chophel was against a boycott of the 2008 Beijing Olympic Games, as suggested by some NGOs.

"The Olympics must go on, they should take place" as planned and must be used "to force China to conform with international rules", he added.

"The more China is involved in international activities, the more they should be morally bound to conform to international rules and laws."

As for boycotting the opening or closing ceremonies of the Games as suggested by some, including French president Nicolas Sarkozy, Mr Chophel said this should be "left to individuals and countries to decide according to their conscience."

On Tuesday, Mr Sarkozy did not rule out that he would stay away from the opening of the Olympics, while Belgian Vice Prime Minister Didier Reynders on Wednesday told Belgian daily Le Soir that "we can never exclude the worst [option]."

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