Brussels – In the course of the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) in Beijing this week, European Union leaders must press Chinese President Hu Jintao for tangible results from the dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and Chinese officials. The 7th Asia-Europe summit, beginning on Friday and coordinated this year by Beijing, convenes in advance of the expected next round of Sino-Tibetan dialogue and at a time of severe repression against peaceful dissent in Tibet.
From March onwards, protests across the Tibetan plateau pointed to the urgent need to resolve issues stemming from 50 years of Chinese rule in Tibet, and in response, several European leaders, including Angela Merkel, Gordon Brown and Nicolas Sarkozy, had strongly urged China’s leader Hu Jintao to meet directly with the Dalai Lama for discussions on Tibet.
Vincent Metten, Executive-Director of the International Campaign for Tibet in Brussels, said: “At this critical juncture in relations between Europe and China, real partnership can only be achieved if built on international norms and principles, such as respect for basic human rights and freedoms. Putting any discussion of Tibet aside at ASEM because of Chinese sensitivities would run counter to the ASEM agenda, which is to promote understanding and enhance cooperation through dialogue. European heads of state as well as the President of the European Commission should raise with the Chinese leadership the ongoing repression in Tibet and the need for substantial results of the next round of Sino-Tibetan dialogue which is expected to be held soon.”
In a new development this morning, European Parliamentarians have awarded imprisoned Chinese dissident Hu Jia the most important human rights award in the EU, the Sakharov Prize. Hu Jia was known for speaking out in support of Tibet as well as other activism, and China had already attempted to pressure the EU not to award him the prize.
According to a letter obtained by the Associated Press, Beijing’s ambassador to the EU, Song Zhe, warned last week that China’s relations with the 27-nation bloc would be seriously harmed if HIV/AIDS activist and dissident Hu Jia wins the most important human rights award in the EU. Hu Jia, who was sentenced to three and a half years in jail in April, is a dissident who spoke out in favor of religious freedom and autonomy in Tibet and chronicled the arrest and harassment of other dissidents as well as campaigning for the rights of HIV/AIDS patients. Hu Jia was also involved in environmental campaigns to protect the Tibetan antelope (chiru).