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At a press conference held this afternoon, the Tibet Intergroup of the European Parliament reiterated its support for the ‘Middle Way’ – the policy being pursued by the Tibetan Government-in-Exile in its negotiations with the People’s Republic of China (PRC).

Opening the press conference, the Tibet Intergroup President, Mr. Thomas Mann MEP, spoke of the need to maintain a spirit of dialogue. The participation of over thirty members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and five hundred officials in a fast to coincide with the visit of the Dalai Lama to the European Parliament represented a “great success”

Mr. Mann went on to express his hope that the French President, Nicholas Sarkozy, would use his forthcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama in Gdansk, Poland, on 6 December 2008 to show that the European Union would not give in to Beijing.

Echoing Mr. Mann’s comments, Ms. Eva Lichtenberger told journalists that she was “delighted” by the support the fast has received and called on members of the European institutions “to be consistent and clear” in the messages they sent to the PRC.

Ms. Lichtenberger noted that following the Olympic Games in August 2008 the situation for Tibetans had got worse and that the “Tibetan people need our support more than ever before”.

Mr. Marco Cappato MEP pressed for a unified approach to the Tibet issue from the international community. Two stories were being told, Mr. Cappato stated, one of which was true and the other which was not. In such circumstances the international community could not be neutral and had to come out in support of human rights in Tibet, and China as a whole.

Before opening the conference to questions, Mr. MacMillan-Scott MEP, Vice-President of the European Parliament, recalled his own visit to the PRC in 1996 and the subsequent detention by the Chinese authorities of those individuals with whom he had met. He believed that the timing of the fast was therefore “very significant” and it was crucial that the European Union remained committed to maintaining pressure on the PRC.

Answering questions from the assembled press, members of the Intergroup expressed their belief that the fast was an important sign, and one of which the Chinese authorities would take note. Mr. Cappato stated that the fast “means something for the Chinese” – going on to say that Beijing’s cancellation of the EU-China summit was in itself a demonstration of the value Beijing placed upon such symbolic acts.

Exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama (C), addresses the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday, December 4, 2008. Dalai Lama is on two-day visit in Belgium.

Exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama (C), addresses the European Parliament in Brussels on Thursday, December 4, 2008. Dalai Lama is on two-day visit in Belgium.

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The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) recommends the People’s Republic of China (PRC) to probe the deaths of Tibetans killed in the spring 2008 protests in Tibet and to adopt measures to prohibit and prevent enforced disappearances and to provide information on the fate of missing persons including the XIth Panchen Lama.

The Committee in its concluding observations (CAT/C/CHN/CO/4) on the fourth periodic report of the PRC on the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment released on 21 November 2008 asked China to ensure that all persons detained or arrested in the aftermath of the Spring 2008 events have “prompt access to an independent lawyer, independent medical care and the right to lodge complaints free from official reprisal or harassment.”

The Committee in its observations “identified three over-arching problems, which, collectively, stood in the way of ensuring the legal safeguards that the Committee generally recommended to all States parties to the Convention as necessary for the prevention of torture: the 1988 Law on the Preservation of State Secrets in the People’s Republic of China; the reported harassment of lawyers and human rights defenders; and the abuses carried out by unaccountable “thugs” who used physical violence against specific defenders but enjoy de facto immunity.”

The Committee earlier received a wide range of alternative reports from the non-governmental organizations including the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD) on PRC’s violations of the UN Convention Against Torture. The alternative reports alleging widespread torture in China is available at the CAT’s website at http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/cat/cats41.htm.

Some notable recommendations include:

“The Committee notes with great concern the reports received on the recent crackdown in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties in the State party which has deepened a climate of fear and further inhibits accountability. These reports follow longstanding reports of torture, beatings, shackling and other abusive treatment, in particular of Tibetan monks and nuns, at the hands of public officials, public security and state security, as well as paramilitary and even unofficial personnel at the instigation or with the acquiescence or consent of public officials. Notwithstanding the numbers provided by the State party on persons arrested and those sentenced to imprisonment in the aftermath of the March 2008 events in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties, the Committee regrets the lack of further information on these persons. In particular, the State party reported that 1231 suspects “have redeemed themselves and been released after receiving education and administrative punishment”, but has provided no further information on these cases or their treatment. In particular, the Committee expresses its concern at:

(a) The large number of persons detained or arrested in the aftermath of the March 2008 demonstrations and related events in the Tibetan Autonomous Region and neighbouring Tibetan prefectures and counties in Gansu, Suchuan and Qinghai provinces, and the reported lack of restraint with which persons were treated, based on numerous allegations and credible reports made available to the Committee;

(b) The failure to investigate the deaths resulting from indiscriminate firing by the police into crowds of reportedly largely peaceful demonstrators in Kardze county, Ngaba county, and Lhasa;

(c) The failure to conduct independent and impartial investigations into allegations that some of the large number of persons detained or arrested have been subjected to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment;

(d) The failure to allow independent and impartial investigators into the region;

(e) The consistent allegations that some of those arrested could not notify their relatives, did not have prompt access to an independent doctor, nor to an independent lawyer, that lawyers offering to represent them were warned and otherwise deterred from providing that legal assistance, and that the speeded
up trials of 69 Tibetans led to them being reportedly sentenced in a summary manner;

(f) The large number of persons who have been arrested, but whose current whereabouts remain unknown and which the State party has been unable to clarify despite written and oral requests from the Committee (list of issues, question 2(l), CAT/C/CHN/Q/4) (arts. 2, 11 and 12).”