On Wednesday 8 December Tibetans and Tibet supporters from across Europe will converge on The Hague to urge European and Chinese leaders attending the annual EU-China Summit to place Tibet at the heart of the EU-China partnership. A series of public events focusing on the plight of the imprisoned Tibetan religious teacher Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and protesting against the possible lifting of the EU’s arms embargo against China will be held on the central Plein during the day and will be followed by a peace march through the city to the Chinese Embassy.

In recent years, the EU and China have forged a “strategic partnership”, outlined in policy papers put forward by both. However, the partnership has primarily revolved around developing both parties’ economic interests without directly addressing the severe ongoing human rights abuses throughout China and the unresolved issue of Tibet. For the EU-China relationship to truly flourish, these longstanding issues of concern must be resolved.

Demonstrators will seek the release of Tibetan monk, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, who is awaiting execution for alleged terrorist activities. Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a well-known and respected religious teacher, was sentenced to death with a two-year suspension on 2 December 2002, on what appear to be trumped-up bombing charges. He had become the target of the Chinese authorities for his work fostering Tibetan Buddhism, developing social and cultural institutions and his allegiance to the Dalai Lama. Chinese officials have said recently that the two-year suspension comes to an end on January 23rd 2005.

Ms Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of ICT Europe said “The Chinese government should stop using the rule of law and its international treaty obligations as PR tools – the case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche is yet another tragic example that the actual situation on the ground is far from the image the PRC is trying to present to international gatherings such as the EU Summit next week .”

This public protest follows today’s publication of an open letter to the European leaders by a coalition of NGOs against the unconditional lifting of the arms embargo on China. Initiated in 1989 after the violent suppression of the student-led Tiananmen Square protests and continued use of force by the PLA against civilian protesters in Tibet, the embargo sends a strong message to China that its record on human rights must improve.

Despite the European Parliament’s overwhelming support for the retention of the embargo, it is likely that the Summit will see the EU leaders divided in the face of Chinese pressure to lift the ban. Germany and France have been particularly keen to see the embargo lifted, allowing their own national arms industries access to the lucrative Chinese market.

“A decision to end the embargo without far-reaching and measurable improvements in human rights from China would be a surrender of principle and a political signal to a repressive regime like China that the EU places commercial considerations above fundamental human rights. China has not earned any ‘reward’ from the EU, and least of all in the form of weapons, which China has shown it is only too willing to use internally against political dissent,” Ms Jampa commented.

The case of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and the Tibetan Lobsang Dondrub, who was convicted with him, are examples of the human rights abuses against Tibetans in the PRC today. Immediately after Lobsang Dondrub’s sentence was approved on 26 January 2003 he was taken away and executed despite earlier Chinese assurances to the US and EU governments, that his case would be reviewed.

The demonstrators will present almost 32.000 expressions of concern to the Dutch Foreign Ministry calling for the EU to promote substantive dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama and calling for the release of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.