Democracies acceding to Chinese Pressure…

12 May

Dalai LamaChen Shui Bian, Taiwan’s Current and First Opposition elected President in 2000Chinese Premier, Wen Jia Bao

The Dalai Lama cancelled a May 11 – 12 visit in Brussels which included planned meetings with Tibetian NGOs based in Europe and European Parliamentarians after the Belgian government succumbed to Chinese pressure. His cancelled trip coincided with the EU-China human rights dialogue on May 15-16 in Berlin and a 300 member trade delegation in June to be lead by Belgium’s Crown Prince, Philippe.

The Australian government is facing similar dilemmas with the spiritual leader’s planned visit to Canberra in June. According to Canberra Times, free places to hear him speak in Melbourne and Brisbane have been booked out while tickets in Canberra on Tuesday, June12 at the National Press Club and the Australian Institute of Sport arena have all been sold, indicating how popular the religious figure is amongst the general public.

Nevertheless, Australian leaders are not forthcoming. Neither Howard nor the Labour Opposition Leader, Kevin Rudd, supposedly a Mandarin speaker and knowledgeable on China, has indicated any interest in meeting up with the leader in exile.

In 2002, Howard refused to meet with the Dalai Lama after China threatened trade sanctions when the former and his Foreign Minister, Alexander Downer met the Dalai Lama as a “spiritual leader” in 1996.

On the bright side, the Dalai Lama will meet Democrats leader Lyn Allison and Greens leader Bob Brown in Canberra.

China militarily invaded Tibet and ruled it as a province causing the Dalai Lama and some 80,000 followers to exile to India since 1959.

Many countries, including democracies such as Belgium, and to a larger extent, the EU, and Australia have succumbed to Chinese pressure when it comes to human rights and sovereignty issues.

The Chinese has successfully applied diplomatic pressure and prevented many countries and their governmental leaders from recognizing and meeting political leaders such as the Dalai Lama and the popularly elected Taiwanese president, Chen Shui Bian; of which China insisted both belongs to them.

As democratic governments are increasingly eager to build trade ties with China since its imminent rise to become an economic giant, such concessions are often at the expense of neglecting the country’s record of human right abuse.

It is imperative that democratic governments show some integrity and political backbone to resist, or at least, dilute these diplomatic pressures. Otherwise, their commitment to universal human rights would sound like hollow calls, or worse, perceived as relative moralism.

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