February 26, 2004

Tibet situation addressed in the Norwegian Parliament

Trascript of Parliamentary Question Time in Oslo concerning the Tibet Situation

Unofficial translation

QUESTION 1, MP Olav Gunnar Ballo (SLP): "I have the following questions to the Foreign Minister:

On the 2nd December 2002 the Tibetan Buddhist Tenzin Delek Rinpoche was sentenced to death by the Chinese authorities and has since then been imprisoned. Rinpoche was strongly engaged in the Tibetan people’s social and religious rights, and the sentence seems to be related to this. For many decades the Chinese authorities have violated human rights in Tibet.

What will the Foreign Minister do towards the Chinese authorities regarding the human rights in Tibet in general and the situation of Rinpoche in particular?"

REPLY 1, Foreign Minister Jan Petersen: "The Norwegian government is still worried about the human rights situation in Tibet. The situation in Tibet is therefore one of our central issues in our dialogue with the Chinese government.

During the autumn session of the UN General Assembly, Norway addressed China’s policy regarding treatment of prisoners, religious freedom and death penalty. The importance of cultural preservation and religious identity of Tibet was also stressed and underlined

As I have answered representative Ballo in last year’s April parliament question time, Norway has on several occasions expressed its concern on the trial of the Buddhist monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche. During an appeal in January 2003, his execution was postponed for two years. The postponement is valid from the time of his arrest, which was in April 2002.

During the last few months we have engaged in Tenzin Delek Rinpoche`s case. As an example, we addressed it on a political level during the Norway-China Human Rights consultation meeting in November last year. As late as last week our Ambassador in Beijing raised the issue of Tenzin Delek Rinpoche in a meeting with the Chinese Foreign Ministry. The Ambassador stressed the concern of the Norwegian public opinion regarding this issue. He also pointed out that the two-year postponement of the death penalty sentence is due in April, and that we feared that he then would be executed.

From the Chinese side, pointed out that when the postponement time is at an end, the prisoner case will be taken up in the court for evaluation, than the court either orders death sentence to be carry out or the death sentence will be change to person sentence. The majority of such cases are due to change into prison sentences."

QUESTION 2, MP Olav Gunnar Ballo: "Thank you Foreign Minister for your answer. I am glad, that on every occasion the Chinese authorities are made aware of our concern about this issue and also our concern about the human rights in Tibet.

On the 17th of March 45 years have passed since the 14th Dalai Lama’s exodus, and on the 4th of October, 15 years have gone since the Nobel Committee announced that he would receive the Nobel’s Peace Prize. I would like to ask the Foreign Minister if the Norwegian authorities collaborate closely with foreign authorities – either with members of the European Community or internationally – in order to increase the pressure on Chinese authorities with regard to the conduct of the human rights in Tibet, and if this takes place within the strategy of the Dalai Lama to improve the human rights situation for the people in Tibet.

REPLY 2, Foreign Minister Jan Petersen: "I am glad to be able to tell that there are more countries now that engage along the same lines as Norway, and hence there is a considerable international pressure regarding this question. We have noticed that when the European Community has addressed this in the same way as we have been doing, the Chinese refer to this coherence. So I believe that we contribute to the collective international pressure, which is particularly important regarding this case.

With regard to the underlying concerns of your question, namely the Tibet situation in general, I believe I can assure Ballo that this is definitely on Norway’s agenda, and that we make our stand clear when we engage in talks with the Chinese regarding this matter."

QUESTION 3, MP Olav Gunnar Ballo: "What we often see with regard to international commitments - and maybe especially concerning the Great Powers - is that economically interests often are attached to the commitments. We have seen it in Iraq, we have seen it in Afghanistan and we have seen it around the world.

For obvious reasons, there will be rather few interests of this kind, both for Norway and for greater nations, with regard to Tibet. It is the human rights that are important here. But this, however, could be in conflict with other Norwegian interests, e.g. in our dealings with China, which itself is a Great Power.

Would the Foreign Minister comment on in which way such factors play a part, and therefore make it harder to engage in a country like Tibet in order to improve the situation for the people living there?"

REPLY 3, Foreign Minister Jan Petersen: "It is not assessments like these that govern how other areas of our China policy is implemented. I dare say that we have a high profile dialogue with the Chinese authorities, concerning e.g. human rights issues. That is why we have a formal human rights dialogue with them. This does not prevent us from seeking other policy objectives as well."

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