Brussels – The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) is concerned that the EU policy on China will be weakened at the summit of Heads of Government of China and Central and Eastern European countries that will take place on 15-17 December in Belgrade, Serbia.

“We have long insisted that the EU hold a coherent policy towards China mainstreaming human rights and democracy,” said the ICT EU Policy Director Vincent Metten. “This format of cooperation is deeply worrying as it may weaken the position of the EU vis à vis China and is devised by Beijing as a tool to divide and rule – i.e. to do business without having to consider the human rights standards and democratic scrutiny of the EU.”

“Human rights are notably absent from the agenda of the China-CEEC – or 16+1 – Summit, especially when bearing in mind the wide scope of the cooperation,” remarked Vincent Metten. “We would encourage the European partners to insist upon integrating human rights and fundamental freedoms in talks with China in the 16+1 framework as they are core values of the EU Member States and of other participating European countries. China’s gross human rights violations in both Tibet and mainland China are incompatible with international human rights standards. The EU Member States should take a stand on issues such as freedom of expression, assembly and religion as well as discriminatory policies in Tibet.”

Vincent Metten pointed out that the critical situation of Tibet in particular should be put on the agenda as a follow-up of the CEEC delegation visit to Tibet Autonomous Region in July 2014. There has been a deterioration of human rights, intensification of crackdowns and militarization of Tibetan areas since 2008. This has provoked a tragic wave of self-immolations in which more than 130 people have set themselves on fire since 2009, as highlighted in many of ICT’s reports.

China-CEEC cooperation involves the EU Member States – Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Estonia, Hungary, Latvia, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia – the non-EU countries – Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, FYROM, Montenegro, Serbia – and the People’s Republic of China.

This cooperation format foresees annual summits; promoting investment, economic and trade cooperation; expanding financial cooperation; enhancing cooperation in connectivity; expanding cooperation in science, technology, innovation, environmental protection and energy; promoting dynamic people-to-people and cultural exchanges and cooperation; and encouraging cooperation on sub-national level.

China and the Central and Eastern European Countries’ Cooperation was started three years ago in Budapest, and then continued and deepened during the meetings in Warsaw in April 2012 and Bucharest in November 2013, making the summit in Belgrade the third of the kind.