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5october201039Brussels: A coalition of pro-Tibetan organisations mounted a demonstration during the eighth Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM 8) in Brussels, Belgium, on Tuesday (October 5). As the ASEM 8 delegates visited the BOZAR centre for fine arts,  protesters gathered a few hundred meters away at Kunstberg and urged EU foreign policy chief Baroness Ashton to raise concern about Tibet directly with the Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, who was attending the summit.

“Baroness Ashton has visited China twice and has a good understanding of the political situation, including knowledge of the repression in Tibet,” said Vincent Metten, EU Policy Director of the International Campaign for Tibet. “It is vital that she takes this opportunity to address the current crisis in Tibet with the Chinese prime minister, and also seeks to move China forward on dialogue with Tibetan representatives of the Dalai Lama. These are issues of great concern for the European public, including many parliamentarians.”

The coalition called upon the European Union and its member states to work towards a joint statement that encourages the resumption of dialogue between the envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials, leading to a mutually agreeable solution for Tibet. It also asked the EU to instate a Tibet liaison officer at its embassy in Beijing.  

The demonstration was organised by the ICT and Dutch Friends of Tibet, and included representatives from the Tibetan community in Belgium, United Nations for a Free Tibet, French and German Friends of Tibet, RTYC Belgium, the Tibetan Development Fund, and Lights on Tibet. It began at 11:00 with around 50 participants and, by the end of its two-duration, had increased its numbers to around 150.

The protesters highlighted Chinese lack of respect for human rights and freedom in Tibet and the poor living conditions of Tibetans, shouting slogans including “Wen Jiabao, free Tibet now!" and “Shame, shame, China, shame!” and holding placards reading, "“Freedom should not be written with blood!” and “Long live HH the Dalai Lama, save Tibet, free Tibet!”

The Chinese ASEM 8 delegation were clearly aware of and unhappy about the demonstration, which was largely peaceful but saw one incident with the police at its conclusion, resulting in minor injuries to a Tibetan protester.

ASEM 8 ran from October 4-5, followed by the EU-China summit on October 6. The meeting is a biannual dialogue between leaders from Europe and Asia - regions which represent 58% of the global population, 50% of global gross domestic product and over 60% of global trade.

Prior to the summit, European Commissioner Karel De Gucht confirmed that human rights issues would be discussed, despite likely attempts by the Chinese government to block any mention of Tibet. In a statement on September 21, he called on Beijing to “allow the Tibetan people to fully exercise their political, religious, economic and social rights,” as guaranteed by the Chinese constitution.

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