On eve of Germany’s Elections, Political Parties commit to support Dalai Lama and Tibet

Merkel Gere

Chancellor Angela Merkel talks to Richard Gere about Tibet in Berlin on February 9, 2017. (Photo: Bundesregierung/Steins)

Ahead of the 2017 Federal German Election scheduled for Sunday, 24 September, political parties currently represented in the parliament, the Bundestag, responded to questions on Tibet posed to them by the International Campaign for Tibet Germany, the Tibet Initiative Germany and the Association of Tibetans in Germany.

The Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU) and the Christian Social Union in Bavaria (CSU), the Social Democratic Party (SPD), DIE LINKE (The Left) and Alliance 90/ The Greens responded to 11 questions reaffirming their support to encouraging dialogue on Tibet. They were specifically asked about policy plans to advocate for human rights in Tibet, Tibet’s environment and direct dialogue between the representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government — in the Federal parliament, by means of official representations with the People’s Republic of China, and through international forums.

All parties expressed concern at the worsened human rights situation in Tibet and the state of its environment and said these should be on the agenda in their bilateral talks with the Chinese Government. They recognized the need to elevate the Tibetan issue in bilateral and international forums. Following is an unofficial translation by the International Campaign for Tibet of answers received in German language, which can be accessed here: http://savetibet.de/kampagnen/tibet-im-fokus-bundestagswahlen-2017/wahlpruefsteine/.

Tibet—election questionnaire for the 2017 Federal German Elections

1. Every fraction in the German Bundestag, Germany’s national parliament, viewed the political, cultural, and human rights situation in Tibet in 2013 as “critical,” “despairing,” “severely limited,” “unacceptable,” and “still unsatisfactory and highly tense.” What has your fraction done in the last four years to politically address the situation in Tibet? How do you plan to push for improvement in the situation in Tibet in the upcoming legislative period?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
The CDU and CSU support the religious and cultural self-determination efforts of Tibetans on many levels and we would like to continue these policies in the coming legislative period. In our discussions with representatives of the Chinese government, China will be called upon to seek dialogue with Tibet and Tibetans. In this context, the CDU and CSU champion the government’s one-China policy (and) also view Tibet as an integral part of China. The human rights spokesperson for the CDU/CSU Bundestag fraction, Michael Brand, is taking part in the “Show your flag for Tibet” campaign as a clear sign of our support for the Tibetans. At the same time, it signalizes to the Chinese leadership that they should begin a new political chapter.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
In this legislative period, the situation in Tibet, alongside other human rights topics, was regularly addressed in the SPD’s political discussions with Chinese government representatives and members of parliament. For example, freedom of religion was a main concern in foreign and security policy dialogue with members of parliament. There is hardly any other topic that is so closely linked to Tibet, where there are such massive restrictions on freedom of worship and religion. Tibet was also a topic in the Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid; the Chinese government refused to allow a planned trip there. Furthermore, rapporteurs responsible for China and other SPD members of parliament regularly took part in the Tibet Memorial Day and worked on behalf of political prisoners in Tibet.

As the situation will not improve, the SPD will continue to follow the political and human rights situation there and insist upon compliance with international standards. We will support any initiative that promotes a peaceful solution to the Tibet question and improves the daily lives of the people there, politically, socially, and culturally.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
DIE LINKE (The Left) calls for strengthening civilian initiatives, mechanisms of international law, and political, peaceful conflict resolution at all levels. The peoples of all countries must have the right to self-determination in their economic, social, and cultural development. We fight for the right to social and individual safety as well for protection against violence for people all over the world. Thus, DIE LINKE calls rigorous for peace policies.

The Bundestag fraction DIE LINKE stands for compliance with all universal political, civilian, economic, social, and cultural human rights. China signed and ratified the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. Unfortunately, it has yet to ratify the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The fraction DIE LINKE champions the recognition of cultural rights and the right to the free expression of religion for Tibetans and other minorities. This includes dialogue with the Dalai Lama. DIE LINKE fraction champions an immediate end to the death penalty, including in China, in several published documents brought forward in the Bundestag, including: Condemning the Death Penalty World-Wide (No. 18/2740), Motion on Briefing by the German Government – The German Government’s Twelfth Report on its Human Rights Policies (No. 18/12553), and the Motion on the German Government’s Eleventh Report on its Human Rights Policies, No. 18/06193.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
The universality of human rights obligates us to insist they are upheld—always and everywhere. Green parliamentary representatives have addressed the situation in Tibet time and again, both domestically (for example, in discussions with the Chinese ambassador) as well as on trips to China or with regard to the Central Tibetan Administration in Dharamsala in India.

For the 56th anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising, for example, the vice president of the Bundestag, Claudia Roth, denounced in a highly public speech human rights violations by the Chinese government. These rights include the right to self-determination, the right to life and physical integrity, and the freedom of religion. She also addressed other topics rarely discussed in public, such as social repression in educating Tibetan children and the immense environmental implications of oppression. You can read her speech at http://claudia-roth.de/reise-nach-indien.

Moreover, in the past few years, there have been a few public and publically relevant events in Germany and Europe in which the Dalai Lama took part personally and with high-ranking representatives of the Central Tibetan Administration. Representatives of my fraction also took part, taking a strong stance in talks and discussions.

In the upcoming election period, we will continue in our exchange with the Chinese government to rigorously champion religious and cultural freedom, compliance with human rights, and the economic participation of Tibetans. We demand constructive dialogue between the Chinese leadership and Tibetan representatives, the release of all political prisoners, and an end to the violence.

2. How do you assess the current political, cultural, and human rights situation in Tibet?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
The situation in Tibet has been terribly troubling for the past several years. The human rights situation in Tibet must be judged as critical. Amnesty International wrote in its annual report for 2016/2017: “…campaigns to fight ‘separatism’ and ‘terrorism’ have continued to result in the drastic repression of religious expression especially in those areas inhabited by Tibetans.” Instead of freedom of religion, there is massive persecution and the destruction of religious and cultural institutions. The right to association is severely limited. The Chinese leadership continues to refuse to recognize the Tibetan’s peaceful, religious, and cultural identity, which dates back thousands of years. In 2016, the human rights organization Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (FIDH) issued a warning about the dangers that the new Chinese anti-terrorism law poses for Tibetans. This law is intended to legitimate this kind of oppression.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
The political, cultural, and human rights situation in Tibet has worsened. Throughout the country, the Chinese government has become increasingly repressive. Those Tibetans whose cloisters and organizations are subject to ever-closer monitoring by the Party have also come to feel this. Arbitrary imprisonment, torture, and the violation of religious freedom in Tibetan regions continue to lead to self-immolations which lead, in turn, to further repressions. Stepped-up legislation, e.g. in the fight against terror, collective punishments, education campaigns, and the refusal to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama gives reason to fear that the future for Tibetans is not going to improve.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
Forced resettlement of Tibetan nomads and religious groups violates human rights as defined by the UN such as the right to food or the right of religious freedom, as UN Special Rapporteur Olivier De Schutter has noted. We take a very critical view of the destruction of Larung Gar at the least and the expulsion of around 5,000 nuns and monks from the Buddhist Academy. Self-immolation, primarily by Tibetan monks protesting Chinese policies in areas predominantly inhabited by Tibetans, is an expression of despair and hopelessness. The Tibet question must be resolved through dialogue and in consideration of the interests of the various population groups’ international and human rights. DIE LINKE thus champions the recognition of Tibet’s cultural identity and right to internal self-determination as part of the one-China policy and within China’s territorial integrity and sovereignty.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
The human rights situation in Tibet is not acceptable. Overall, the human rights situation under Xi Jinping has significantly deteriorated. We are very concerned about limits to freedom of thought and association under Peking’s new security apparatus, among other things. These include the Overseas NGO Management Law (effective since the beginning of 2017), an anti-terrorism law (effective since the beginning of 2016), their national security law, and a cyber security law. Moreover, a draft for new regulations on religion has serious implications for Tibet.

3. How do you assess environmental concerns on the Tibetan Plateau? Will you advocate for the Chinese government to actively include the Tibetan people in forging and realizing environmental, economic, and resource policies while refraining from anything that might harm the fragile environment—especially natural resources such as Tibet’s water resources?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
The Chinese government’s erecting of huge dams massively intervenes in the water system and creates foreign policy conflicts with affected neighboring states over potential water scarcity. The unchecked mining industry is a further environmental burden. Countless operating mines poison ground water. Moreover, poaching, deforestation, and over-grazing reveal a lack of sustainability in development. The CDU and CSU advocate for the Chinese government to include the Tibetan people in forging and realizing projects and to do everything it can to protect the environment in Tibet.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
These topics should be on the regular agenda of bilateral talks. The Tibetan Plateau and neighboring provinces are especially ecologically sensitive and are home to countless animal and plant species, many of them facing extinction, and China’s last primary forest. The building of new dams could negatively impact the environment and the people living there: consequences for the fish population and agriculture, the siltation of river basins, soil erosion, water scarcity upriver, a threat to biodiversity, the resettlement of thousands of people, and a threat to the way of life for the national minorities at home there.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
To make our way of life possible, many natural resources are exploited in the world’s less-privileged regions. The local population, small farmers, nomads, and indigenous peoples are often overlooked. DIE LINKE calls for, among other things, the ratification of ILO-convention 169 (The Indigenous and Tribal People’s Convention) which grants indigenous people a fundamental say in decisions affecting their territory. The German government has yet to ratify this. DIE LINKE champions legally binding international regulations on the basis of which transnational enterprises can be held accountable for past human rights abuses. In Motion 18/5203, which holds corporations responsible and legally regulates human rights protection, our fraction has proposed legislation that would make basic human rights standards binding and introduce corporate liability. DIE LINKE fraction also supports this procedure at UN level with a motion entitled Make Sanctions against Corporations that Violate Human Rights Binding – Support the UN-Treaty Process (No. 18/12366).

DIE LINKE champions the right to water and the right to land and seeks to prevent illegal land-grabbing. If our society is to survive long-term, we must preserve natural resources and we must think about what kind of waste human beings can put an end to. The main thing is use as little of everything as possible as well as to exercise self-constraint, particularly in industrialized societies.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
We see the environmental concerns on the Tibetan Plateau as extremely serious. Glacial melt due to climate change, over-exploitation of natural resources, large-scale projects, and environmental pollution already massively threaten the livelihoods of the Tibetans. In the future, Tibet and vast regions in Asia will face a scarcity of water and drought, which will lead to new conflicts and climate refugees. That’s why climate protection is a must. We advocate for the active inclusion of the Tibetan people in forging and implementing policy.

4. Will your fraction address the ongoing poor human rights situation in Tibet and the unresolved Tibetan question in talks with official representatives of the People’s Republic of China?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
In the 18th legislative period, the CDU/CSU fraction in the German Bundestag initiated a visit to China and Tibet by a delegation from the Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid. The goal was to gather concrete information about the human rights situation in Tibet first-hand and to talk to Tibetans and Chinese government representatives. As China refused entry to the then-committee chair Michael Brand, the trip could not take place. Nonetheless, the CDU and CSU maintain contact on many levels with official representatives of China with regard to the human rights situation in Tibet and China. The overall situation of minorities in China, but above all that of the Tibetans, is a regular talking point in the German-Chinese human rights dialogue. Both nationally and internationally, the CDU and CSU call upon the German government and the EU to take up the Tibetan problem with the Chinese leadership regularly, openly, and critically.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
Yes. Difficult topics, including human rights issues, were also addressed in the appropriate contexts in bilateral discussions.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
DIE LINKE fraction advocates for compliance with human rights throughout China. The fraction and the party address and endorse human rights topics at every opportunity, e.g. in talks with China’s Communist Party, as well as dialogue with all parties to the conflict. At bilateral and international level, there are various possibilities for German-Chinese dialogue on the rule of law or EU human rights dialogue. The Rosa Luxemburg Foundation in Peking also contributes to intensifying the German-Chinese exchange on human rights issues. In China, the Foundation focuses on reforms in social justice, participatory decision processes, economic development, and ecological compatibility.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
Yes.

5. In light of Tibet’s ongoing poor human rights situation and charged political climate, would you advocate for a multi-partisan Tibet Resolution or for a hearing on the matter in the German Bundestag?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
In the last legislative period, the CDU/CSU fraction in the German Bundestag was instrumental in the Joint Declaration of the Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, which strongly criticized a lack of freedom, particularly religious freedom, and the Chinese leadership’s refusal to recognize Tibet’s unique cultural identity. The CDU and CSU would strongly welcome the opportunity for a multi-party Tibet resolution or a hearing for this in the German Bundestag in the upcoming legislative period.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
There have already been an inter-fraction resolution and a hearing in the German Bundestag on the situation in Tibet. From the SPD’s point of view, these are also possibilities for the future. However, with all initiatives and measures, we need to review precisely the consequences for those whose well-being these initiatives and measures are intended.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
DIE LINKE categorically endorses inter-fraction initiatives providing equal participation in determining their content and agreement on common topics.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
Yes.

6. Will your fraction push to re-establish the multi-party Tibet discussion group?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
The CDU and CSU will also continue to support a Tibet discussion group, which has long sensitized members of the German Bundestag to the Tibet problem and with which they have established an important forum for exchange between politicians and civilians.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
Yes. The SPD will support the resumption of the inter-fraction Tibet discussion group. Whether it is reconstituted as a voluntary committee, however, fundamentally depends upon the make-up of the new Bundestag and its members’ interests in Tibet.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
Only the elected fraction can decide this.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
Yes. In the 18th legislative period, Manuel Sarrazin and Maria Klein-Schmeink represented our fraction in the Bundestag. If we are re-elected, we want to continue to actively shape the Tibet discussion group and we will sponsor a persecuted Tibetan as part of the “parliamentarians protect parliamentarians” program.

7. Will your fraction call upon the next German chancellor to receive the Dalai Lama?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
The German chancellor Angela Merkel received the Dalai Lama in September 2007, clearly signaling the Union’s commitment to Tibetans and their rights. On February 9th, 2017, Chancellor Merkel met Richard Gere. He is the chairman of the International Campaign for Tibet. The association, founded in 1988, champions democracy, the securing of human rights, and protection for Tibet’s culture and environment. In addition to these talks, the CDU and CSU also place their hopes in the dialogue with China regarding human rights.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
The future chancellor of Germany will decide whether and in what context he or she will meet the Dalai Lama in light of the current situation. The SPD fraction is generally of the opinion that dialogue is indispensable in international politics. Against this backdrop, a discussion between the German chancellor and the Dalai Lama makes sense.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
For our fraction, the deciding factor is in which guise exiled Tibetans’ highest spiritual dignitary, the Dalai Lama, visits Germany. We welcome private meetings with the future chancellor but there should not be any official reception.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
Yes.

8. Will your fraction push to ensure that the Tibet question becomes an integral part of the German-Chinese dialogue on the rule of law?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
Although there is no fixed agenda in the bilateral human rights dialogue between Germany and China, Tibet is regularly addressed. The CDU and CSU are convinced that a solution can be found only in close agreement with the Chinese leadership. Thus, the Tibet question and the call for greater autonomy are often addressed in the German-Chinese human rights dialogue. The CDU and CSU have long been committed to ensuring that the human rights situation in Tibet is regularly addressed in this dialogue.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
Both sides continually re-negotiate the German-Chinese discussion on the rule of law. Topics change so it is not standard to have a fixed Tibet talking point on the agenda, and it would not be useful in a constructive dialogue. Many topics in the discussion on the rule of law, however, touch upon the Tibet question and can have a positive influence. This is the SPD’s strategy.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
We can easily envision a critical human rights dialogue as part of the German-Chinese dialogue on the rule of law. This applies both to the extent and concrete form of Tibet’s autonomy, which is anchored in the Chinese constitution. DIE LINKE sees an opportunity here for protecting the cultural traditions of the people in the Tibet region and for long-term solutions.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
Yes.

9. Will your fraction push to ensure that delegations, for example from the Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid, are sent to Tibet?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
On May 11th, 2016 and with the support of all fractions, the Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid condemned China’s entry ban for the Committee’s then-chair, Michael Brand. This also applies to the repeated attempts on the part of the Chinese ambassador and representatives of the Chinese People’s Congress to influence the chair’s scheduling, appearances at events, and publications on the topic of human rights in Tibet. The Committee stands by its plan to travel with Michael Brand to China to visit the cities of Peking, Ürümqi and Lhasa to gather information about the human rights situation first-hand and by talking with governmental and parliamentary representatives as well as civilians. The Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid calls on China’s representatives to do everything they can to make this trip go forward as quickly as possible.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
The SPD continues to advocate for a Committee for Human Rights and Humanitarian Aid delegation to China and Tibet. We are very sorry that the trip planned in the legislative period failed due to the “scheduling difficulties” contended by China’s government.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
DIE LINKE fraction always supports trips abroad by parliamentary expert committees seeking first-hand information and dialogue with responsible politicians.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
Yes.

10. Will your fraction advocate for the Federal Republic of Germany to address the ongoing poor human rights situation in Tibet at UN bodies, specifically the United Nations Human Rights Council or as part of a joint multi-country initiative? Will your fraction support the demand to allow UN representatives, especially UN Special Rapporteurs, to have access to Tibet?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
The CDU/CSU fraction in the Bundestag has long supported addressing the human rights situation in Tibet in United Nations’ bodies, particularly the Human Rights Council. Access to representatives of the United Nations, including special rapporteurs, remains important for evaluating the human rights situation in Tibet. The CDU and CSU believe that access to Tibet—for other groups as well, of course, such as members of parliament, diplomats, and journalists—must be granted.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
The SPD endorses raising the human rights situation in Tibet in the UN Human Rights Council. We also support the demand for access to the Tibetan region by independent UN representatives, especially UN special rapporteurs, so that they can get a first-hand impression of the situation.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
International human rights and international law must be binding for all countries. Human rights are universal and indivisible. DIE LINKE fraction champions the strengthening of the United Nations Organization and its bodies. Clearly, this also applies to opportunities for UNO representatives to conduct human rights investigations, locally if necessary, in every member country. This includes the People’s Republic of China and the human rights situation in the Tibet region.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
Yes.

11. A direct dialogue between envoys of the Dalai Lama and representatives of the Chinese government last took place without result in 2010. Will you actively demand that the Chinese government resume these talks?

CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Union / Christian Social Union)
In their talks with representatives of the Chinese government, the CDU and CSU have long called for direct dialogue with envoys of the Dalai Lama. We will continue to do so in the next legislative period.

SPD (Social Democratic Party)
In discussions with our Chinese partners, we continually point out that these discussions are useful and advisable.

DIE LINKE (The Left)
DIE LINKE always advocates for peaceful and political conflict resolution. In this case, a dialogue between conflicting parties is an important approach to developing a long-term solution. Success will depend upon having all legitimately and democratically elected representatives of all conflicting parties coming to the table as equals.

Alliance 90 / The Greens
Yes, because the problems in Tibet are, above all, the result of Chinese governmental policy. This is why it is important to do everything in our power to compel the Chinese government to take dialogue and other offers seriously and to commit to constructive participation.

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