HHDL stamp

The Deutsche Post DHL stamp honoring the Dalai Lama.

The German postal service Deutsche Post DHL has discontinued a stamp honoring the Dalai Lama initiated by ICT, saying that they would also not allow “portraits of Adolf Hitler” and other imagery it described as of “terrorist organisations”.

ICT had ordered the stamp to commemorate the Dalai Lama’s 80th birthday in July, and it became popular, used to post letters from Germany globally.[1] But in an abrupt U-turn last week, Deutsche Post DHL announced that due to a change in its terms of service, persons of public interest “outside the territory of the Federal Republic of Germany” could not be portrayed on the stamps and ICT’s Dalai Lama stamps were discontinued.

The company, which runs the German postal service, were reported by leading German newspaper Die Welt in a prominent story that they would also not run images of Adolf Hitler.[2]

Kai Mueller, Executive Director of ICT Germany, said: “This is a shameful decision by Deutsche Post DHL, clearly aimed at protecting its corporate interests in China. Deutsche Post DHL told us that the company ‘as an international corporation’ must observe ‘political neutrality’, making it likely that the company became a target of political pressure. A spokesperson of Deutsche Post DHL also said that the company would also not allow ‘terrorist, extremist or pornographic images’ on their products – an appalling comparison to make with regard to a stamp featuring the image of a much-loved religious leader and Nobel Peace Prize Laureate.”

In June, ICT was at first denied the production of the stamp that can be officially used with Deutsche Post DHL, which effectively has a monopoly over the German postal services, previously state-owned. The company had argued that it could not portray persons of public interest, “among them also religious personalities” on its products. But ICT demonstrated that Deutsche Post DHL had already produced stamps with portraits of Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bavarian state governor Horst Seehofer and Pope Benedict. As a result, the company reluctantly allowed the production of the Dalai Lama stamp, prior to their U-turn.

In 2007, Deutsche Post DHL had not permitted a similar product by the ICT portraying the Dalai Lama, openly referring to “contravening corporate interest”. This caused a public outcry at the time.[3] The latest news about the discontinuation of the Dalai Lama birthday stamp was carried on the front page of Die Welt.[4]

Before it was discontinued, ICT used the Dalai Lama stamp to send a letter in July to the Chinese ambassador to Germany Shi Mingde expressing concern about the death in custody of a Tibetan prisoner, Goshul Lobsang, and other cases of torture in Tibet.[5]

[1] ICT organized for 6,400 stamps to be produced before it was discontinued. In Germany, organisations can order stamps as individual products that can be used in the German postal service and beyond, and which can be used to send letters to China or anywhere else in the world.

[2] Die Welt, December 4, 2015, in German: http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article149605467/Dalai-Lama-darf-nicht-mehr-von-Briefmarke-laecheln.html

[3] ICT press release, December 5, 2007: ‘Deutsche Post lehnt Marke mit dem Dalai Lama ab – ICT kritisiert Kniefall vor Peking’, http://bit.ly/1CtbDpW and an article on Spiegel Online” vom December 3, 2007, ‘Kotau vor China: Deutsche Post verbannt Dalai Lama von Briefen’, http://bit.ly/1L1sTnb.

[4] Die Welt, December 4, 2015, in German: http://www.welt.de/politik/ausland/article149605467/Dalai-Lama-darf-nicht-mehr-von-Briefmarke-laecheln.html

[5] ICT report, ‘New report documents endemic torture in Tibet and climate of impunity’, February 26, 2015: https://www.https://savetibet.org/new-report-documents-endemic-torture-in-tibet-and-climate-of-impunity/