UPDATE: We have since learned that, following the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, a group of EU ambassadors have travelled to Tibet on an official visit. The delegation members have visited Lhasa and Nyingchi as part of a five-day visit to the Tibet Autonomous Region. Although the delegation will have been heavily controlled in what they can see in Tibet, this is nevertheless a very rare occurrence, with the last such visit taking place in 2013.
The organisation expressed its concern over the demolitions at last week’s EU-China Human Rights Dialogue
The European Union criticised China’s demolitions at Larung Gar in a face to face meeting between European and Chinese representatives.
The meeting, the EU-China Human Rights Dialogue, took place on 22 June 2017. The dialogue is an exchange on human rights between both parties, and therefore constitutes an opportunity for the EU to raise important matters concerning the respect of human rights by the Chinese government.
The EU stated that it was “highly concerned” about several issues in Tibet, among them Larung Gar Buddhist Academy, the most important Tibetan Buddhist Centre in the world, currently being demolished by the Chinese government. The EU also expressed concern about the “grave human rights situation in Tibet” and urged China to resume dialogue with representatives of the Dalai Lama.
The EU-China dialogue was initially supposed to take place in January 2017. Prior to the meeting, Free Tibet and its supporters had urged the EU to use this opportunity to put pressure on China to halt the demolitions. Although the dialogue was indefinitely postponed, Free Tibet continued to campaign for this. Letters from Free Tibet office and its supporters were sent to Federica Mogherini, High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, and Donald Tusk, President of the European Council, urging them to prioritise Larung Gar during their meetings with China.
Aside from Larung Gar, the European Union delegation also expressed their concern over political prisoners such as Ilham Tohti, serving a life imprisonment for advocating for Uyghurs’ human rights, and Liu Xiaobo, who won a Nobel peace prize, imprisoned for 11 years for his role in organising a pro-democracy petition. They also encouraged China to release detained human rights defenders and lawyers.
Larung Gar Buddhist Academy has been the scene of demolitions and forced eviction of its residents since July 2016, when Chinese work teams began implementing a plan to cut down its population, estimated among different sources as anywhere between 10,000 and 40,000 residents, down to 5,000 people by October 2017. Our latest information states that at least 4,600 people have been evicted and 1,500 houses and buildings have been demolished.
Free Tibet's campaign
Free Tibet has been campaigning since the demolitions began, calling for the destruction to be halted and for the residents to be allowed to return. As part of this campaign, protests by Tibet support groups took place around the world as part of a global day of action on 19 October. Strong statements calling for the demolitions and removals to be stopped have come from the US State Department, the US’s Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, the United Nations and the European Parliament.
The UK-China Human Rights Dialogue is due to take place in Beijing in the coming weeks. Free Tibet has already met with the UK Foreign Office to request that they continue to put pressure on the Chinese government over Larung Gar, as well as raising other human rights issues, including political prisoners, torture and the Panchen Lama.