The International Campaign for Tibet has written to governments in Europe that are sending delegates to China’s first Belt & Road Forum (BRF) not to put trade before human rights. The letter urged them to include the deteriorating human rights situation in China, and in particular in Tibet, in their bilateral talks with their Chinese counterparts, and to include references to human rights and the rule of law in any joint statement adopted at the summit.

The Belt and Road Forum, part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative (OBOR), will be held on May 14 and 15, 2017 in Beijing. It aims to put China at the center of global economic affairs and to expand links between it and countries in Asia, Africa and Europe. However, given China’s political situation, there is fear that this will lead to strengthening the effort of countries that put trade before human rights and respect for a community’s culture and environment.

“While this initiative might benefit some countries’ economic development, the international community has an equally important responsibility in ensuring that human rights are not sidelined in the face of economic interests and trade relations with China,” said Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet.

Chinese authorities have announced that delegates from more than 100 countries, including 28 heads of State and Governments, will be attending the summit. However, only one member of the G7 (Italy) is sending its Prime Minister. The United States is not expected to send a high-profile representative, nor are India, Japan or South Korea.

“In the case of Tibet, ‘social stability’ can only be achieved through respect for human rights and the rule of law and we consider these factors to be fundamental preconditions for achieving economic prosperity,” Mecacci added.

China is currently experiencing increased human rights crackdown. The repression is particularly harsh in Tibet, and has already resulted in three more Tibetan self-immolation protests in 2017, bringing the number of Tibetan self-immolations since February 2009 to 149.

Addressing EU participants of the Belt & Road Forum, the ICT letter said, “As the Chinese government is becoming more confident on the international stage, a coherent and united position of all EU member states in this regard is therefore needed more than ever to counter China’s divisive strategy.”