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Swiss parliamentarians vow continued support for Tibetan cause

April 3, 2017

By Lobsang Wangyal

Tibet Sun, March 31, 2017 - Six members of the Swiss parliamentary support group for Tibet on a visit to the capital of the Tibetan Diaspora in McLeod Ganj expressed their continued support for the Tibetan people’s quest for a free Tibet.

The parliamentarians, accompanied by members of the Swiss Tibetan community and the Swiss Tibet Friendship Association, met with Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama with a 45-minute meeting on Wednesday. The delegation had met with Sikyong (the Tibetan political leader) a day earlier.

The delegation is on a week-long tour, and was impressed by what the Tibetans have achieved. “We are deeply impressed by how Tibetans have been successful in developing and implementing democratic processes and institutions. We don’t know any other so well-organised society in exile carrying such hardship but still going on hopefully with peace in mind and heart,” said Maya Graf, member of Swiss parliament and a former speaker.

Graf said that they support the “Middle-way” policy of the Tibetans to achieve freedom in Tibet, and will encourage restarting the dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama.

She further said that they are aware of the deteriorating environmental and climate change issues in Tibet, and that Switzerland could help raise these issues on a multinational level for immediate action.

After the signing of a Free Trade Agreement between Switzerland and China in 2013, the Swiss attitude towards Tibetans has changed to the extent of officially describing Tibetans as from China, as opposed to from Tibet as they did earlier. This started in June 2015, with many Tibetans objecting to it.

Bilateral trade between Switzerland and China totaled more than 22.5 billion USD in 2013.

Ms Graf said that the Swiss Government’s change could be due to greater pressure from China. “It’s the administration’s decision. We will try to find out why they did that.”

There are about 7,000 Tibetans in Switzerland today, with the majority of them having integrated into the Swiss system and taking its citizenship. However, a few hundred are facing trouble getting legalised in the country.

Last month a 27-year-old Tibetan woman named Yangdon Chorasherpa seeking asylum in Switzerland was deported to Nepal by the Swiss immigration authorities. She first came to Switzerland in 2014. She was said to be imprisoned in Kathmandu despite having a health problem.

“Tibetans coming directly from Tibet will not have trouble getting their asylum request approved, but it’s the Tibetans coming from India and Nepal who have a problem because they have already lived in these countries, and getting asylum approved is difficult as these two are safe states,” Graf said.

However, Graf assured the audience that Yangdon’s would be the last case of deportation.

The first Tibetans to have settled in Switzerland were in the early 1960s after the Swiss Red Cross made arrangements for 300 Tibetans refugees to resettle in Switzerland. In addition, about 150 Tibetan orphans were adopted by Swiss families at that time.

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