Members of European Parliament (MEP) Molly Scott-Cato and Csaba Sogor made strong and pertinent interventions in the debate of EU-China Tourism Year at the European Parliament plenary in Strasbourg on Thursday, 16 November 2017.
MEPs availed the opportunity of speaking time on the subject raising serious and pertinent issue of observing EU-China Tourism Year along with the European Year of Cultural Heritage next year. While Ms Scott-Cato wondered why tourism should be prioritized over human rights with background of serious Chinese violation of human rights in Tibet, she in stead called upon Beijing to start talks with the Representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
Mr Sogor outlined detailed repressive and inhuman situation in Tibet. He questioned, therefore, the morality and ethicality of celebrating a tourism agreement with China without a single reference to human rights, which is not in line with EUâs Universal and Foreign Policy values.
Ms Scott-Cato is Vice-President of Tibet Interest Group (TIG) and Mr Sogor is an active member of TIG. Both of them have been at the forefront of every campaign or advocacy in the EP on the issue of Tibet for a number of years.
MEP Molly Scott-Catoâs statement
It is almost ironic that both the EU-China Tourism Year and the European Year of Cultural Heritage will take place next year. We will celebrate and promote European cultural diversity, while at the same time working to âimprove opportunities to increase economic cooperationâ (as the European Commission phrased it) with a regime that represses such diversity in its own territory â often with utmost brutality and blatant disregard for human rights. Tibet is an obvious example of such practices that has made frequent headlines for many years.
In July this year, Liverpool FC signed a controversial sponsorship deal with Tibet Water Resources Limited that exploits the natural resources of Tibet to the detriment of the local population and the environment. Such commercial agreements not only lend legitimacy to Chinaâs occupation of Tibet, indeed, they are only possible because of it.
This sponsorship deal puts the club and the city in the centre of Chinaâs on-going occupation of Tibet. I know this does not reflect either the fans or the city and urge the club to reconsider this poorly thought-through deal. However, we also need to think about whether this is the kind of reckless international economic cooperation we want to promote at the EU level.
The unfortunate timing of the EU-China Tourism Year sends a signal that economic interests are, once again, being prioritised over human rights. Instead, I urge the Commission to put human rights issues firmly on the agenda with our international partners â for example by calling on Beijing to re-start talks with the representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama that have stalled since 2010.
MEP Csaba Sogorâs statement
I think that at least once or twice in our lives many of us have already been confronted with the question whether traveling to a country where human rights are violated is ethical or not. I believe that, as in most issues, it is the scale, the severity of the violation that matters. Even though many countries across the globe are far from perfect in this regard, China still stands out.
But even in China there are regions that stand out. Letâs take the case of scenic Tibet, which is at the rock-bottom of the freedom ranking list of Freedom House, a place where civil and political rights are non-existent. Now, letâs suppose that Tibet â for a while is not shut before foreign tourists, letâs suppose that with your passport â something most Tibetans are not allowed to have â you can visit the region. Letâs suppose that as a foreigner you can get past through police road checks and you can enter Lhasa, a city which ordinary Tibetans from outside the city are restricted to access.
You would find yourself in a place where:
â¢ draconian surveillance measures are implemented to enforce the so-called âstabilityâ of the region,
â¢ where detentions, prosecutions and convictions of Tibetans for the peaceful exercise of their freedoms of expression, assembly, and religious belief are carried out in alarming numbers,
â¢ where many Tibetans set themselves on fire because they are denied their basic fundamental rights,
â¢ or where state policies encourage migration from other parts of China in order to reduce the ethnic Tibetan share of the population.
In the light of these I firmly believe that the conclusion of a tourism agreement with China, without a single human rights reference is not ethical, nor is it in line with our universal and foreign policy values.