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Parliamentary question - E-005381/2012Parliamentary question

VP/HR — New restrictions on Tibetan social gatherings and religious activities in Lhasa following self-immolations

Question for written answer E-005381/2012
to the Commission (Vice-President/High Representative)
Rule 117
Ramon Tremosa i Balcells (ALDE) , Thomas Mann (PPE) , Edward McMillan-Scott (ALDE) and Kristiina Ojuland (ALDE)

Two men engulfed themselves in a burst of flames outside a Buddhist temple popular with tourists and pilgrims in Lhasa on 27 May 2012, marking the first time the recent wave of self-immolations to protest against Chinese rule has reached the tightly guarded Tibetan capital.

China’s state news agency, Xinhua, named the two as Dargye, from Aba County in the Tibetan area of south-west China’s Sichuan Province, and Tobgye Tseten, from Xiahe County in a Tibetan community of the country’s north-western Gansu Province. Tobgye Tseten died, while Dargye was seriously injured but is in a stable condition and able to talk, according to Xinhua.

Since February 2009, when the first self-immolation occurred in Tibet, 37 people have set themselves on fire, according to the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD). That figure includes the latest incident in Lhasa. Of the 36 self-immolations since March 2011, 28 people have died, the group adds.

These self-immolations aim to draw attention to China’s restrictions on Buddhism and to call for the return from exile of the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. Most have taken place in heavily Tibetan areas of China, but only one has occurred in Tibet itself and none in the capital. Chinese authorities have confirmed some of the self-immolations over the past year, but not all.

The twin immolations in the heart of the Tibetan capital are certain to embarrass the region’s communist leadership, which has pledged to prioritise social stability and ethnic unity. That mandate is especially pressing this year, as China is preparing for a once-in-a-decade leadership transition in the autumn and does not want the occasion to be undermined. The immolations are also likely to prompt tough new restrictions on Tibetan social gatherings and religious activities in Lhasa, as they have elsewhere.

Radio Free Asia reported on 28 May 2012 that Lhasa was under heavy police and paramilitary guard following the immolations, and that the situation was very tense.

In the light of the above, and bearing in mind that the issue of self-immolations in Tibet has been discussed by the COHOM and the COASI and during the EU‑China human rights dialogue, could — and will — Vice-President/High Representative Ashton issue a clear public statement of concern regarding the human rights violations and lack of respect for human rights in Tibet?

Moreover, does the High Representative not consider that the still-to-be-appointed EU Special Representative for Human Rights should have a particular mandate in relation to Tibet?

OJ C 256 E, 05/09/2013