The European Union’s External Affairs Commissioner, Chris Patten, today urged China to begin dialogue with the exiled leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama. Mr. Patten, who is on a visit to China, made this statement in Shanghai. He said he would like to see discussions between the Chinese leadership and the Dalai Lama, according to a Radio Australia report.

The former Hong Kong governor said such talks would promote reconciliation and enhance China’s image internationally.

Mr. Patten began an official visit to China on 28 March, during which he is scheduled to meet senior leaders in Beijing, give a keynote speech at the Central Party School in Beijing, and address leading members of the business community in Shanghai.

Mr. Patten was quoted by Radio Australia as saying that while there was no argument in Europe that Tibet was a Chinese province, there were concerns about whether Tibetan linguistic and cultural traditions were being preserved.

Before leaving for China, Commissioner Patten told the media in Brussels on 27 March, 2002, “I am looking forward immensely to this trip. …The range of issues of mutual interest for China and the European Union expands every year, and encompasses everything from reform of China’s social security and local governance structures, through sustainable development, to peace and stability on the Korean peninsula. My program will allow us to explore these and other issues in greater depth, and identify further concrete areas for co-operation.”

The International Campaign for Tibet Europe has consistently urged the European Union to be proactive in urging China to begin negotiations with the Dalai Lama.

Although he has twice been to China since becoming a commissioner, this is Patten’s first official visit at the invitation of the Chinese government.

In Beijing, Commissioner Patten will pay calls on President Jiang Zemin, as well as senior Ministers and policy makers. He will sign two financing agreements concerning two new co-operation projects: the European Study Centres Programme, and the Energy/Environment Programme. He will also discuss the Commission’s Country Strategy Paper on co-operation with China with several Ministers responsible for implementing projects associated with it. At the Central Party School he will give an address on ‘Developing Europe’s External Policy in the Age of Globalization’.

In Shanghai, he is scheduled to visit the China Europe International Business School (CEIBS) to meet students and EU project managers. CEIBS, which was funded in part by the EU, was recently voted one of the 50 best Business Schools in the world (and the second in Asia) by the Financial Times, less than 10 years after its inauguration. The Commissioner will visit the Shanghai Stock Exchange, address students at the prestigious Fudan University and, give a speech before leading members of the Shanghai business community at a reception organized with the European Chamber of Commerce. After Shanghai, he will visit Nanjing, Suzhou and Angzhou for the first time.

Commissioner Patten is one of eight EU Commissioners visiting China in 2002. The annual EU-China Summit will be held in Copenhagen in September.

Mr. Patten is visiting Singapore after his China visit.