British official James Moran, the EU foreign service's top man on Asia, during this year's round of discussions asked his Chinese counterpart Chen Xu, a director general in the Chinese foreign ministry, about the recent monks' disappearances after the Chinese crackdowns, he also forwarded a list of "all recent cases" of disappeared persons including the 300 Buddhist monks who were taken away from the Kirti monastery on 21 April.
Diplomats from the two sides held an 'in-depth discussion on the rights of minorities' during an EU-China Dialogue on Human Rights, the European Union delegation to China said in a statement on the talks. "The EU called on the Chinese authorities to provide full information on the fate and whereabouts of the persons who have disappeared from Kirti Monastery," the EU delegation in Beijing for the 30th EU-China Dialogue said in a statement.
In April this year, the Chinese authorities have prohibited the faithful local Tibetans from offering food to the monks of Kirti Monastery. Many reports from ground indicate that if the situation remains same, over 2500 monks in the monastery will face starvation which most probably lead to a mass revolt. In such an event security forces will unleash its deadly assault leading to extrajudicial killings as it happened three years ago on 16 March 2008 in Ngaba County.
Around 9 pm on April 21, Hundreds of armed soldiers, police officers and ‘special forces ' (Duijing) were deployed around all of the monastic residences in the Kirti compound to seal them off, and then arrested over 300 monks, following a preconceived plan. They put them into 10 trucks, and took them away. According to what local people have heard, they have been taken either to Dujiangyan or to Tashi Ling (Li Xian), Ngaba town of Tibet. The U.N. Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearance in June strongly expressed to the Chinese authorities that they reveal the whereabouts and fate of more than 300 Tibetan monks since they were allegedly arrested in April. Journalists were banned from the region and communication with Ngaba is heavily restricted.
Thursday's EU-China meeting took place amid what rights groups have called China's harshest crackdown on dissent since the ruling Communist Party sent troops to suppress the 1989 Tiananmen Square democracy movement. It also followed anti-government protests last month by people in Southern Mongolia. However, the EU statement said the dialogue was "conducted in a frank and open atmosphere' and provided an 'opportunity to express concerns about the implementation of international human rights standards."
Topics included the rule of law and freedom of expression, while the EU officials 'sought further information about reports of torture of people in detention' and urged China to reform its 're-education through labour' system. 'The EU side expressed its concerns about the use of forced disappearances and extra-legal detentions,' the statement said.
"It stressed the importance of an independent judiciary and protection of the rights of lawyers to exercise their profession." The dialogue has generally taken place twice a year since 1995, and the two side agreed to meet again in the second half of this year, the EU said.
But some international rights groups doubt the usefulness of the talks and have criticized EU officials for failing to raise individual cases publicly. 'From the Chinese government's perspective, these human rights dialogues are a means to limit and isolate any discussion about its dismal human rights record at relatively low diplomatic levels,' Sophie Richardson, Asia advocacy director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement on Thursday.
"The EU has gone along with the script, largely treating the dialogues as business-as-usual talk shops, despite China's escalating crackdowns, detentions, and disappearances of activists," Richardson said.
"It looks great on paper. But there is no transparency. There are no benchmarks and no opportunities for public input or oversight," the NGO's rapporteur on China, Phelim Kine, told EUobserver. "The talks are used as a public relations exercise that allow the EU to isolate human rights issues from other top-level negotiations."