European Union Urged to Take Action in Tibet Crisis | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 19.03.2008
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European Union Urged to Take Action in Tibet Crisis

Amid widespread international condemnation of China's crackdown on pro-independence protests in Tibet, calls are growing louder for the European Union to put more pressure on Beijing.

A line of police block protesters demanding an end to repression in Tibet

Protestors around the world called on their governments to end violence in Tibet

The European Union is under growing pressure to go beyond its strong condemnation of China's suppression of anti-Chinese demonstrations in Tibet, that has killed dozens by most media accounts, and demand an explanation from Beijing for the crisis in Tibet.

But China warned of a "life and death" struggle with the Dalai Lama on Wednesday, March 19, following a crackdown on protests in Tibetan regions that brought some calls for a boycott of the Olympic Games in August.

"We are in the midst of a fierce struggle involving blood and fire, a life and death struggle with the Dalai clique," Tibet's Communist Party secretary, Zhang Qingli, told a teleconference of the region's government and Party leaders.

"Leaders of the whole country must deeply understand the arduousness, complexity and long-term nature of the struggle," he said in remarks carried online by the China Tibet News.

The Italian government on Tuesday, March 18, called on the European Union to swiftly send a mission to Beijing and "ask the Chinese side for a satisfactory clarification of the situation in Tibet as quickly as possible."

In a statement issued after a meeting between Italian Secretary of State Gianni Vernetti and Chinese Ambassador to Rome, Sun Yuxi, Italy urged the EU to dispatch a mission to discuss the situation with the Chinese authorities and the "outlook for political dialogue in Tibet."

Dalai Lama hints at resignation

Dalai Lama

Blamed by China for the protests, the Dalai Lama said he would step down to end violence

Violence has flared in Tibet and neighboring provinces after days of protests in Lhasa, the Tibetan capital, in what is seen as the greatest challenge to Beijing's authority in the region for nearly 20 years, when an uprising was brutally suppressed by authorities, rights groups have said.

The government-in-exile of the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, say about a 100 people are believed to have died in clashes between Tibetans and Chinese authorities.

Beijing has blamed the Dalai Lama for the violence, saying he masterminded the protests. The Dalai Lama, who has accused China of "cultural genocide" in Tibet, consistently says he is not seeking independence for Tibet but wants autonomy within China, which sent troops into the region in 1950.

On Tuesday, the Dalai Lama said he was willing to step down as head of the Tibetan government in exile if that was needed to stop the riots in his homeland.

Speaking on public radio, Italian Foreign Minister Massimo D'Alema said on Tuesday that the resignation of Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama would be a "very serious thing (that could) cause the situation in Tibet to go completely out of control."

Tibetans rally in Europe

Amid protests across Europe, hundreds of Tibetans also rallied outside the European Union's headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday, urging the EU to investigate allegations of Chinese repressions in their country. At least one demonstrator was injured and four were detained when members of a 250-strong crowd of exiled Tibetans tried to force their way into China's mission to the European Union, police said.

"We want the EU to help us by sending an investigation team (to Tibet) to verify the facts," Songtse, a Belgium-based Tibetan told news agency DPA.

The protesters also called on the international community to stop the Olympic torch being carried through Tibet.

EU governments and officials have so far turned down calls for the summer Olympic Games in Beijing to be boycotted, arguing that such a boycott would not be the right answer.

Calls to boycott opening ceremony

Tibetan demonstrators stand in front of the International Olympic Committee headquarters in Lausanne

Human rights groups have called for an Olympic boycott if violence in Tibet does not end

However French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner suggested Tuesday the EU may consider a boycott of the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in protest over a crackdown on Tibetan protests.

Media rights group Reporters Without Borders (RSF) had on Tuesday called for a boycott of the Aug. 8 ceremony.

Kouchner told a press conference that RSF's proposal "does not have the support of the French government" but suggested it could be discussed at a meeting of foreign ministers from the EU's 27 member states next week in Slovenia.

"If there were to be a proposal, it could only be a European one," he said, adding: "Why not examine all of this" at the meeting.

"Let us consider it," he said, arguing that staying away from the opening ceremony would be "less negative than a general boycott of the games," which France and other European nations have ruled out.

The view was echoed by Hans-Gert Poettering, head of the European Parliament and a member of German Chancellor Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats (CDU).

"What's happening in Tibet right now will never be accepted by us. The Chinese must recognize that," Poettering told German radio station Deutschlandfunk.

The Christian Democrat urged politicians to rethink their travel plans for the opening ceremony of the Games in Beijing, saying they had to ask themselves whether it was responsible to attend the event.

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