Brussels, January 4, 2018 – French President Emmanuel Macron should use his first visit to China from 8-10 January to send a signal to the Chinese leadership that France will not remain silent in face of the Chinese government’s attacks to the fundamental rights and freedom of the Tibetan people, said the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) today.

“This visit, which will be the first of President Macron in China, will set the tone for the Franco-Chinese relationship in the next few years and is therefore crucial,” said ICT’s EU Policy Director Vincent Metten. “The French President must use this opportunity to take a clear and strong stand on the gross human rights violations in Tibet. He should convey to his Chinese interlocutors, including President Xi Jinping, that the only way to reach a peaceful, mutual and long-term solution for China and Tibet lies in the resumption of a constructive dialogue between the Chinese government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama.”

Since his election, President Macron has repeatedly reiterated France’s commitment to the values of respect for human rights and dignity, freedom, equality, and has shown on several occasions his determination to raise cases of human rights abuses in a number of countries he has visited. He should now apply the same standards to China and express concern about the deteriorating human rights situation in China, and in particular in Tibet.

Ten years after the 2008 protests, the human rights situation is indeed bleaker than ever on the Tibetan plateau, as the Chinese government further curtails a wide range of human rights in the name of security and stability. As a result of these continued attacks against the rights, culture, identity and lifestyle of their people, and given the ever-shrinking space for peaceful expression of dissent, six more Tibetans have self-immolated last year, leading to a grim milestone of at least 152 self-immolations in Tibet and China since February 2009.

The French President met the Dalai Lama during his last visit to France in September 2016. Mr. Macron, who was then campaigning for the presidential election, expressed interest and respect for the Tibetan exiled spiritual leader and his messages of compassion, peace and dialogue. “J’ai vu le visage de la bienveillance” (“I have seen the face of kindness”), he commented on his Twitter account shortly after the meeting, with a picture of the Dalai Lama offering him a “khata,” a traditional Tibetan scarf.

At a time when the European Union’s unity is seriously threatened by the Chinese divide and rule strategy and when some of its members states are increasingly shying away from criticizing China’s human rights record for fear of economic retaliation, France should play a leading role and put human rights before interests.

The International Campaign for Tibet hopes that this will encourage President Macron to use this upcoming visit to raise the issue of Tibet, promote the resumption of the Sino-Tibetan dialogue and raise concern about individual cases such as the one of detained Tibetan language advocate Tashi Wangchuk, who has been tried in a Chinese court on January 4, just a few days before President Macron’s visit to China.