Members of the European Parliament

Members of the European Parliament display Tibetan flags on their desks.

In a resolution adopted by the European Parliament on Thursday 12 March 2009 to mark the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, the Chinese Government is urged to resume talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives with a view to “positive, meaningful change in Tibet”, not ruling out autonomy, which is a solution that the parliamentarians believe would not compromise China’s territorial integrity.

“Support for Tibet in Europe is strong because it is founded on internationally recognized principles of human rights. Today’s action in the European Parliament was compelled by the dire situation in Tibet and a belief that a solution for Tibet, even after 50 years, can still be resolved through determined efforts,” said Vincent Metten, EU policy director for the International Campaign for Tibet in Brussels.

The MEPs call for talks to resume came as Tibetans in many countries commemorated the 50th anniversary of the 1959 revolt against China, which led to the flight of the Dalai Lama and the beginning of his exile in India. Eight rounds of dialogue in recent years between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and Chinese Government representatives have produced no breakthrough and no further talks are planned. In recent days the Chinese authorities have tightened security in Tibet, banning journalists and foreigners from visiting the region.

Autonomy, not independence, for Tibet

In its key demand, the European Parliament urges the Chinese Government “to consider the Memorandum for Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People of November 2008 as a basis for substantive discussion leading towards positive, meaningful change in Tibet, consistent with the principles outlined in the Constitution and laws of the People’s Republic of China”. The resolution calls on the EU Council Presidency to adopt a declaration along the same lines.

The Tibetan Memorandum, produced at the request of the Chinese Government and presented by envoys of the Dalai Lama at the eighth round of talks in November 2008 in Beijing, respects the principles underpinning the Chinese Constitution and the territorial integrity of the People’s Republic of China, but was rejected by the Chinese Government as an attempt at ‘semi-independence’ and ‘independence in disguise’.

In addition, Parliament’s resolution “condemns all acts of violence, whether they are the work of demonstrators or disproportionate repression by the forces of law and order”. It calls on the Chinese Government “to release immediately and unconditionally all those detained solely for engaging in peaceful protest and account for all those who have been killed or gone missing”.

MEPs ask the Chinese authorities “to provide foreign media access to Tibet, including the Tibetan areas outside the Tibet Autonomous Region” and “to grant UN human rights experts and recognised international NGOs unimpeded access to Tibet so that they can investigate the situation there”.

The resolution was adopted by 338 votes to 131 with 14 abstentions.

Previous EP action on Tibet

The European Parliament has followed events in Tibet closely over the years. After the repression of demonstrations by Tibetans a year ago, the EP adopted a resolution condemning “all acts of violence from whichever source”. EP President Hans-Gert Pöttering then announced on 10 July that he would not attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games last August because talks between China and the Dalai Lama had made no progress. The Dalai Lama himself addressed the European Parliament on 4 December 2008 as part of Year of Intercultural Dialogue.

Read the text of the EP Resolution »