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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Tibet, Burma and the Olympic Games dominate talks between MEPs and Chinese parliamentarians

June 5, 2008

Yttre Förbindelser
European Parliament, Sweden
June 3, 2008

Tibet, Burma and the Olympic Games were the three main issues
discussed on Monday, the first day of the 26th EU-China
Interparliamentary Meeting in Brussels this week. The two sides
debated the role of the Dalai Lama in the violent protests in Lhasa
in March 2008, China's refusal to exert pressure on Burma's military
junta, and the prospects for free access to information for
journalists covering the Olympics.

The first issue addressed was the recent earthquake in Szechuan
province. Delegation Chair Dirk Sterckx (ALDE, BE), expressed his
condolences to the victims and their families, and congratulated the
Chinese authorities on their swift and efficient response. He said
the press coverage seemed "open and frank" and he "found it very
positive to see articles on the front pages of newspapers about
construction and building methods".


The major theme of Monday's meeting was Tibet. Maria Badia I Cutchet
(PES, ES), asked about the Tibetans' cultural and educational rights,
while several other MEPs questioned the Chinese government's stance
towards the Dalai Lama.

Mayor of Lhasa Mr Duojicizhu replied that "in Tibet there were no
human rights before Chinese liberation: you had a cruel, barbarian
society based on feudalism, serfdom and slavery. We now have a
democratic system, with individual freedoms protected," he added. He
called the 14 March protest "criminal violence, premeditated and
orchestrated by the Dalai Lama and his followers, with the aim of
stirring up trouble in a sensitive period and of causing a bloodbath".

Chair of the Chinese Delegation and Vice-Chairman of the Foreign
Affairs Committee of the National People's Congress Zha Peixin added
that such problems "are not confined to China: you had similar
problems last year in the suburbs of Paris, or in Los Angeles during
race riots." He added that the common thread among all of these
events is that "any responsible government cannot stand idle, it must
take action to protect its people and their property."

Helga Trüpel (Greens/EFA, DE), said that the Dalai Lama "has no
separatist ambitions, he just wants cultural autonomy", and asked
what the Dalai Lama would need to do for negotiations to be
restarted. Mr Zha replied that "the central government policy is
consistent and clear: dialogue between it and the Dalai Lama is
always open, but he must show genuine will for dialogue, and must
recognize that Tibet is an inseparable part of Chinese territory".


On a more positive front, Mr Sterckx asked why relations with Taiwan
were improving, in order to see if the world community can push for
further changes to lower tensions in the region. Mr Zha replied that
a lot is due to the elections held in March, which he said "showed
that pro-independence views are not popular on the island" and that
"mainstream opinion in Taiwan is that the economy should grow, peace
should prevail, and ties across the straight should improve."


Mr Sterckx noted that unlike the Chinese response to its own natural
catastrophe, "the military dictatorship in Burma showed no
leadership", adding that "the population is abandoned, international
help cannot reach them", that "there's a difference between
intervention and influence", and asking China to do its utmost to help.

Mr Zha replied that "a country needs autonomy to take decisions, and
sometimes mistakes are made, but it is up to the people of the
country to correct these mistakes". He said "maintaining stability in
Burma reflects the interests of everybody involved," and noted that
elections are coming up in 2010. Mr Sterckx urged his Chinese
counterparts to "ensure together that the elections will be up to
standard, and that the results will be honoured, since otherwise it
is pointless to hold them."

Ms Trüpel asked about China's policy towards Africa, noting that
"China is responsible for arms transfers to conflict zones, even some
under a UN embargo. This cannot be justified; such transfers are
worsening the situation there". Mr Zha replied that "on arms sales to
African countries, the accusations levelled against China are
unfounded." On the specific case of Darfur, he added that "Sudan, the
African Union and the UN should be the ones finding a solution to the
crisis there", and he urged outside pressure to encourage dialogue
between the Sudanese government and the opposition forces.


Manolis Mavrommatis (EPP-ED, EL) asked what opportunities foreign
journalists will have to travel around the country during the Olympic
Games. Foreign Affairs Committee Vice-Chair of the National People's
Congress Qi Xuchun replied that the "Chinese Olympic Committee has
set up an agency to provide services to foreign journalists, and
these agencies provided good services to journalists during the
earthquake, so you have no reason to worry".

Delegation for relations with the People's Republic of China
In the Chair : Dirk Sterckx (ALDE, BE)
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