ICT Brussels staff

ICT Brussels staff and former Tibetan political prisoner Gyaltsen Drolkar with Members of the Latvian Parliament following a hearing on Tibet in the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee, December 15, 2014.

BRUSSELS – The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) called on Latvia to ensure that the Tibet issue is brought back to the forefront of the Foreign Affairs Council’s political agenda, as the Baltic country assumed the six-monthly rotating presidency of the Council on 1st January 2015.

Vincent Metten, EU Policy Director at ICT’s Brussels office, said: “The people of the Baltic states, once under Soviet rule, know what it is to face political persecution under an occupying power. There are many similarities between Latvia’s recent history and the current situation in Tibet. For this reason, there is widespread popular support for the Tibetan cause in Latvia and the other Baltic countries. It is important that policy-makers take civil society’s will into consideration on such an important matter.”

“In recent years Beijing has adopted an aggressive diplomatic approach towards EU Member States, pressuring them to block their meetings with the Dalai Lama or Tibetan representatives. The EU and its Member States need to endorse a coordinated position on Tibet to strengthen their leverage and show that it is not up to the Chinese leadership to dictate the political agenda to democratic European countries,” added Vincent Metten.

Last month, ICT undertook a mission to Riga where the Human Rights and Public Affairs Committee of the Latvian Parliament hosted a hearing on Tibet. ICT briefed the Committee on the recent developments on the ground in Tibet and on EU-China relations. The hearing was complemented by Ms. Gyaltsen Drolkar, a former Tibetan nun, known as one of the “singing nuns of Drapchi prison”, who testified before the Committee about her long experience in detention in Tibet. On the same occasion, ICT also met with diplomats at the Latvian Foreign Affairs Ministry and handed over its submission to the Latvian Presidency.

ICT recommended a more active Latvian support in promoting the resumption of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue, which has been stalled since 2010, and the adoption of an EU statement at the beginning of 2015 to mark the 5th anniversary of the last round of talks between the Chinese government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama. As was again vigorously stated during the recently concluded 27th meeting of the Task Force on Sino-Tibetan Negotiations held in Dharamsala on 5-6 January, the objective of the dialogue is to find a mutually agreed solution for Tibet to achieve genuine Tibetan autonomy within the Chinese borders, without calling for independence and refuting the “One-China policy”.

Moreover, ICT sees the rethinking of the EU’s human rights policy towards China and Tibet, including the EU-China human rights dialogue, as an urgent priority for the credibility of the EU’s foreign policy, as three new cases of self-immolation occurred in December 2014, bringing the total number up to 136 since February 2009.

ICT’s submission to the Latvian Presidency highlights the high responsibility of countries such as Latvia, which have themselves experienced foreign occupation. Moreover, Latvia holds the EU Presidency in the period leading up to the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday in July, a key event for the Tibetan movement and its commitment to the promotion of a political culture of non-violence and dialogue.

Pushing for a more unified and ambitious approach to human rights in Tibet would prove Latvia’s strong support for the values on which the EU is founded.