April 22, 2008

Tibet: EC’s Barroso To Speak Out During China Visit

Sample ImageThe European Commission (EC) President, Jose Manuel Barroso, is expected to raise the issue of human rights in China on a visit beginning today.

Below is an article written by Christopher Bodeen and published by Associated Press:

The European Commission's president plans to discuss concerns over Tibet on a visit to Beijing, the latest sign of how unrest in the Himalayan region is becoming a diplomatic distraction for China's communist leadership.

Jose Manuel Barroso, who heads the European Union's administrative body, will take up the prickly topic as part of talks on human rights and freedom of expression, a commission spokesman in Beijing said Monday [21 April 2008].

Barroso's two-day visit beginning Tuesday [22 April 2008] comes amid calls from world leaders for China to address accusations that its hard-line policies in Tibet are alienating many Tibetans and eroding the region's Buddhist culture.

Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda put it clearly Friday [18 April 2008] when he told the visiting Chinese foreign minister that China "must face the reality that the Tibetan conflict has become an international issue."

Tibetan protesters have shadowed the Olympic torch relay, forcing organizers to curtail several legs of an event that China had hoped would showcase its prosperity, modernity and global influence ahead of this summer's Beijing Olympics.

Barroso's visit was planned months ago. He leads a delegation of nine commissioners for talks on topics ranging from intellectual property protection to climate change.

Recent events in Tibet, however, will likely dominate the news coverage, if not the actual talks.

China is also expected to repeat complaints about a recent European Parliament resolution calling on the 27 EU nations to explore "the option of non-attendance" at the Olympics opening ceremony if China continues to refuse to engage the Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader.

Barroso has said he opposes boycotting the Olympics over Tibet.

In a statement, the European Commission said it has maintained a dialogue with China on human rights and freedom of expression. "The recent events in Tibet are a further reason to speak about them," it said.

A commission spokesman, William Fingleton, said Tibet will be raised in meetings with President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao.

Beijing has repeatedly refused calls for dialogue with critics on Tibet, including the Dalai Lama. The Chinese government accuses his supporters of organizing protests that turned violent in Tibet last month and spread to parts of western China.

Outrage in China over what is portrayed as foreign interference over Tibet has spread on the Internet and in state media, and anti-Western protests flared in several Chinese cities over the weekend.

Similar nationalistic outpourings have led to violent protests in past, and the leadership now appears to be trying to cool the anger.

A front-page editorial Sunday in the People's Daily newspaper, the Chinese Communist Party's official mouthpiece, called for calm and urged people to cherish patriotism "while expressing it in a rational way."

However, state media on Monday announced a two-month "patriotic education" campaign to cover the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and surrounding areas. Previous campaigns have required monks to denounce the Dalai Lama and are believed to have helped fuel recent Tibetan protests.

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