In a disappointing move for rights advocates, the EU has chosen to keep silent about China’s gross violations of human rights in Tibet with its refusal to sponsor a China resolution this year.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) is disappointed with the European Union’s apparent decision yesterday not to sponsor a resolution on China at the 58th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights. Considering the abundant reporting on China’s human rights violations in Tibet, the EU decision contradicts its expressed human rights policy, namely to develop and strengthen democracy and rule of law as well as human rights and fundamental freedoms.

“The European Union’s refusal to sponsor a China resolution allows Beijing to act with impunity against the Tibetan people,” said Tsering Jampa, Director of ICT Europe.

The EU couched its decision against the resolution by indicating that its discreet bilateral human rights dialogue with China offered a better approach.

“Not surprisingly, Beijing prefers back-room conversations to the bright light of public debate of its human rights record,” said Jampa. “However, no one believes that the bilateral human rights dialogue has been productive for the Tibetan people,” continued Jampa.

Since 1997, EU influence at the Commission has receded, and the United States has taken the lead in building support for a China resolution. However, US-sponsored China resolutions in 1998, 1999 and 2000 were stopped before debate by a procedural “no action” motion introduced by China. Last year, European maneuvering shut out the United States from re-election in the slot reserved for Western block member nations at the Commission, relegating responsibility for the China resolution to the EU.

“The United States never so utterly abandoned its responsibility as a free nation and member of the Human Rights Commission as the EU has with its refusal to sponsor a China resolution this year.

“The U.S. experience shows that countries can sponsor resolutions and maintain a human rights dialogue with China. The test for sponsorship should be primarily based on whether human rights have significantly improved, and they have not. The EU should have the courage of conviction to consider a resolution on China based on its merits, and not take a back-seat to promoting human rights for Chinese and Tibetans,” said John Ackerly, ICT President.

The UN Human Rights Commission meets from March 18 to April 26 in Geneva, Switzerland.