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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."

Hungary Discriminates Against Tibetan Exiles

September 17, 2008

Human rights takes a back seat to big business

John Horvath (jhorv)

Csogyal Tenzin may breathe a little easier. Last week, he was slated 
to be the first Tibetan forced to leave Hungary. According to a 
government decree from last December, Tibetan exiles are not allowed 
to enter the country or permitted residence. In effect, this also 
means that technically the Dalai Lama is not allowed to enter the 
country. Ironically, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit this small 
Central European country next year.

Although Tenzin succeeded in avoiding deportation last Monday, his 
respite is only temporary. He has been granted an extra 30 days while 
his appeal is being heard. Ironically, he has a valid work permit that 
only expires in 2010.

Tenzin, a former member of parliament from Tibet, has been living in 
Hungary since 2002. He teaches Buddhist philosophy and Tibetan 
literature at the Tan Kapuja Buddhist College in Budapest. He is also 
on the verge of completing the first Hungarian-Tibetan dictionary. 
Despite this and other contributions to Hungarian culture and society, 
he is being expelled from the country as persona non grata.

Tenzin hopes that his being expelled from Hungary is simply a 
misunderstanding and that with his appeal he will be able to regain 
his right to live and work in the country. It is quite clear from the 
government's side of things that there is no such mistake. The 
government decree from December 2007, in which third-party documents 
are listed, doesn't include those used by Tibetan exiles.

Tibetan exiles, including the Dalai Lama, travel with special yellow-
colored passports that are issued by the government of India. With 
these special documents Tibetans who have fled their home country from 
Chinese oppression are still able to travel the world. They are 
presently accepted throughout the EU -- with the exception of Hungary.

Apart from scant mention in the mainstream media in Hungary of 
Tenzin's case, the plight of Tibetan refugees in this Central European 
country has, for the most part, gone unnoticed.

At present, there are seven Tibetan refugees living in Hungary. They 
have been in the country since 2005 and are currently kept in a 
refugee compound in the eastern city of Debrecen. Originally, they 
were supposed to go to Belgium, but as so often happens they were left 
on their own by those promising to take them to their final 
destination. In due course one of the refugees gave birth to a healthy 
baby boy in the refugee compound.

Although these seven Tibetans applied for refugee status, their 
application was denied on account of a technicality. Subsequently, 
they were granted humanitarian asylum. Since they don't have 
passports, they are unable to leave the country.

Their stay in Hungary, meanwhile, is conditional and depends on the 
status of China's human rights record. As long as this status is 
negative, the refugees are able to stay in Hungary. However, unable to 
move freely and find work, this option represents nothing more than 
glorified imprisonment.

What is of concern now is that Hungary doesn't want Tibetans of any 
kind -- either those who work and contribute to society (as in the 
case of Csogyal Tenzin) or those seeking asylum (as in the case of the 
seven refugees). Budapest has made it quite clear that it wants to 
draw itself closer to Beijing. Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany has 
traveled on a number of occasions to China in an attempt to forge 
closer relations. In essence, Hungary hopes to become the gateway to 
the EU for China, through which goods and services between East and 
West will flow.

In order to be the China-EU gateway, however, there is a cost. As with 
the recent Olympics, China has shown that it is unscrupulous when it 
comes to defending its interests in Tibet. Hence, there is no doubt 
that Beijing put pressure on Budapest to adopt an anti-Tibet policy.

Only this can explain why the government issued a decree that flies in 
the face of EU norms and basic human rights. Throughout the EU, 
Tibetans are able to travel unheeded with their yellow-colored 
passports; those who have fled, meanwhile, are generally granted 
refugee status.

When condemning China for its human rights record, it's not enough 
simply to denounce Beijing for its abuses. Those countries that invest 
and do business in China are just as guilty and should be condemned in 
much the same way.

Indeed, it can be argued that such countries are guiltier, for not 
only should they know better but they are tacitly condoning China's 
human rights abuses. As long as China knows that it can still do 
business abroad, it won't see the need to change.

Hungary's desire to become the gateway between East and West, 
therefore, is nothing more than a cynical attempt to put economic 
interests above all else. It's bad enough that the country is already 
inundated with merchandise that is of poor quality and sometimes even 
considered dangerous. Now it strives to be the gateway for products 
stained with blood, sweat and tears.
Hungary's legislation, which bans Tibetan exiles from entering the 
country or obtaining residence, is 328/2007 (XII. 11).
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