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"I believe that to meet the challenges of our times, human beings will have to develop a greater sense of universal responsibility. It is the foundation for world peace."

Danish government's statement on the self-immolations

January 26, 2012

Peter Skaarup (Danish People's Party):
The question for the Foreign Minister goes like this: Will the Minister, just as the British Foreign Secretary William Hague has done, raise the issue with the Chinese government that several monks in Tibet have set fire to themselves in protest against Chinese repression of the Tibetan population, and will the Foreign Minister ensure that Denmark in the future marks its rejection of the oppression of Tibetans?

The Foreign Minister (Villy Søvndal):
I fully share the concern about the self-immolations of Tibetan monks since March 2011. According to the International Campaign, 16 monks have burned ​​themselves, with 11 deaths as a consequence. Self-immolation is indeed an extreme and also an extremely desperate step that should make us all reflect. The Dalai Lama has in connection with a previous isolated case of self-immolation dissociated himself from it, and he describes it as a practice deviating from a Buddhist view of life. I think this is important to add. From the Danish side we have several times, both bilaterally and through the EU, expressed our concern to the Chinese authorities over the actions by the Chinese authorities against the Tibetan monks in Sichuan province, where Kirti monastery is located and where the majority of the self-immolations have occurred.
On 9 October 2011 I met with the Chinese Foreign Minister, Yang Jiechi, and here I expressed myself clearly about the lack of possibilities for Tibetans to exercise their religion, their culture and their language, because from the Danish point of view this is something that is absolutely essential to be allowed to do. On Danish initiative, among others, the EU in the spring of 2011 contacted China on a high level, where the violent Chinese behavior was criticised and concern for the development was expressed. The question of the situation in the area of the Kirti monastery and the self-immolations was also on the agenda of the EU-China human rights dialogue in June 2011.
In early December, the EU again made a demarche to the Chinese authorities that Norway also joined. In the demarche, the EU expressed concern over self-immolations, that were precisely seen as an expression of the regime's lack of respect for Tibetans' religious, linguistic and cultural rights, and we intend to continue to do so.

[...] I am completely sure that the Chinese authorities do not even for a second doubt what Denmark or the EU think. I am completely sure that they know that we are very concerned about the self-immolations and not least about the situation of the Tibetans in general and this is precisely because we have raised the issue during our meetings with them and generally have criticised the conditions that the Tibetans face and their lack of opportunities for expressing themselves religiously, culturally and linguistically. I believe that it is crucial to continue to address these issues with the Chinese when we meet and to leave our mark, participate in influencing and participate in adding pressure. Fortunately we are in a situation where we are not alone in doing this - where the EU also participates, and here it is clear that a message carries much greater weight when it is not just a country like Denmark that repeats these points of views but also the EU. So we will continue to work with this.

Peter Skaarup (Danish People's Party):
Can the Minister explain why the Minister has refused to meet with Tibet's prime minister, when he visited Denmark on 25 November 2011, in light of [the fact that] the Minister, as Chairman of the Socialist People's Party, met with the representative of the Tibetan government in exile in London,Thubten Samdup, as late as 17 December 2009.

The Foreign Minister (Villy Søvndal):
I can confirm that the political leader of the Tibetan exile government, Lobsang Sangay, was in Denmark on 25 November. He was on a tour of Europe. He had asked for three meetings in this connection: a meeting with me, a meeting with the Danish EU ambassador [minister, ed.] and a meeting with a representative from the Foreign Ministry who deals with Danida's project for exile Tibetans in India.
The government chose to accept Sangay's request for a meeting with an official from the Foreign Ministry. According to our view, this is an appropriate level for receiving Sangay. This is, by the way, confirmed by [the fact that] Sangay was not received on a political level by governments in any place during his European journey. We were in agreement with all other European countries, including countries included in Mr. Peter Skaarup's earlier question.
In my earlier capacity as Chairman of the Socialist People's Party I have had the opportunity to meet with the Dalai Lama and with several of his representatives. During these meetings I have been briefed about the conditions inside and outside Tibet and I have been introduced to the difficult circumstances that many Tibetans face today. Therefore it was natural for me to express myself rather pungently about the lack of opportunities for Tibetans to practice their religion, their language, their culture when the Chinese foreign minister Yang visited Denmark in October 2011.

[...] It is also true, as Mr. Peter Skaarup points out, that our demands are not to go farther than what the Tibetans want. They have not asked for secession from China. They have asked for autonomy. They have asked for linguistic, cultural and religious autonomy. It is true that here they have - and have always had - very warm support in the Socialist People's Party. It is for sure that they can continue to count on this.

[...] And then we will evaluate, in every single case, how we best can meet, like we did in November, as we will do if the Dalai Lama should ask to come. In that case, by the way, we will discuss the question with the Foreign Policy Committee before we reach a decision, in order to make sure that we do reach a decision and that the whole Danish Folketing [parliament, ed.] has expressed their opinions.

[ends]
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