Berlin, July 5, 2017 — The panda bears Meng Meng and Jiao Qing officially handed over to Chancellor Angela Merkel by the Chinese President Xi Jinping at the Berlin Zoo. With this panda diplomacy, the Chinese government has been strengthening its diplomatic relationship for years.
"Still, the German government should not lose sight of the catastrophic human rights situation in Tibet despite this gesture of friendship. In particular in Eastern Tibet, which the giant panda is native to, the situation for Tibetans is almost unbearable," the Berlin based Tibet Initiative Deutschland e.V. (TID) said in statement.
"Peaceful protest against state repression often take place in Ngaba and Kardze. But Tibetans are violently prevented from demonstrating, arrested and convicted to long terms of imprisonment," it said, adding "TID calls on Chancellor Merkel to find clear words towards the Chinese government for upholding human rights standards in Tibet."
Since 2009, close to 150 Tibetans have self-immolated themselves in an act of desperation and protest. Many did not see any other resort. "It seems cynical if the compound in the Berlin Zoo is modelled based on the Tibetan plateau, while people in Tibet have been discriminated against, oppressed and persecuted for decades because of their religion, language and their way of life," says Sonja Finkbeiner, Board Member of the TID.
"In spite of the justified joy over the panda bears, Chancellor Merkel should not be blinded by the panda diplomacy. She must still advocate democratic values, and that involves respect for human rights", says Sonja Finkbeiner.
Giant pandas live in Tibetan areas where peaceful protests take place because Chinese mining companies continue to pillage sacred mountains from Tibetans. "The Chinese government is, in any case, no alternative to the USA. Even if they are presenting themselves as the frontrunner in terms of climate change and green energy right now," she stressed.
Especially at the G20 negotiations in Hamburg, the German government should keep Tibet in their mind. The living space of Tibetans is being destroyed more and more. That represents a gross violation of human rights. With a government such as the Chinese one, whose power heavily relies on repression and exploitation, the German government has to keep a closer look", warns Sonja Finkbeiner.
On the occasion of the handover of the pandas to the Berlin Zoo, the TID organizes a picture stunt themed "Merkel, Clear Words for Human Rights instead of Panda Diplomacy!". Dressed as pandas who warn Xi Jinping and Chancellor Merkel to be instrumentalized for political and economic purposes, the TID calls particularly on the Chancellor to find clear words for the upholding of human rights and the environment protection in Tibet.
TID is the largest and oldest political Tibet Support Group in Germany. It is a non-partisan, non-religious, and non-profit organisation, was established in response to the heavy unrest in Tibet in April 1989 that was forcibly put down by the Chinese authorities.