March 27, 2008
The European Parliament emergency debate yesterday on Tibet began with a tough statement by President Hans-Geert Pöttering, continued with two measured statements on behalf of the Council and Commission, and followed by a series of all-party diatribes by MEPs. We were treated to the same inaccurate presentation of alleged facts that we have become accustomed to from the European media, with one or two notable exceptions.
At this point, many readers will write me off as an apologist for China, which I am not. I write as a believer in the importance of the European-China relationship and an advocate of dialogue.
While all violence was condemned, no speaker made clear that the troubles began with Tibetans rioting, burning, pillaging and murdering Han Chinese. There was a fundamental contradiction in most of the contributions. Much was rightly made of there being no reliable information as foreign journalists were banned; but a series of ‘facts’ were asserted, supporting the condemnation of Chinese conduct. Where did these ‘facts’ come from? Presumably Tibetan exiles who were hardly likely to be objective.
There was no express condemnation of the behaviour of the Tibetans. There was no recognition of the right of the authorities to use force to stop the rioting. There was an assumption that excessive force was used by the Chinese.
As the post of 20 March indicated, the only trustworthy reporting was that of James Miles of ‘The Economist’ who was coincidentally in Lhasa from 12 to 19 March. There was a news blackout after he left. It is clear that heavy Chinese military reinforcements were sent to Lhasa, but no reliable reports on how the Chinese authorities quelled the riots.
The note of the plenary published on Parliament’s website was sanitised.
Set out below is a selection of unsubstantiated assertions made during the debate:
- There was a disproportionate use of military force.
- Hundreds of Tibetans have been killed by the Chinese.
- Can athletes compete while the host state is killing its own citizens?
- In Beijing we don’t want athletes with blood on their feet
- Can we shake hands with officials with murder on their hands?
- The Olympic Games under a dictatorship are a political event. Remember 1936.
- The EU must refuse to attend the opening ceremony while hundreds are being arrested every day.
- Everyday, more and more magazines are being closed.
- China is a brutal communist dictatorship.
- We must defeat the China hegemony or see the end of the free world.
- The Olympic spirit died in the Tibetan genocide.
This debate did not show the European Parliament at its best.Author : Stanley Crossick