PARIS, France, 25 April 2013
As French President Francois Hollande reaches China on a state visit, a survey by a leading French poll house shows that almost 70% of the French people want their president to raise the situation of human rights and civil liberties with his counterpart in China. Of those, 66% want Hollande to raise concerns specifically about the situation of Tibetans under China.
The French president will visit China on 25 to 26 April, in the first visit by a head of state since Xi Jinping took over the reins as Chinese president. Early last week, Senator Andre Gattolin asked whether President Hollande “intends to discuss the issues of human rights in China and in Tibet” with Xi Jinping. The French government responded that human rights form an “integral part of the dialogue” between China and France.
“No topic will be excluded, and all questions will be discussed with candour and mutual respect for each other,” responded Najat Vallaud-Belkacem, French Minister for Woman’s Rights and spokeswoman for the government.
At the French lower house, the day before Hollande left for China, MP Noël Mamère asked the government to raise the issues of rights for the Tibetan people, and also for the release of Lui Xiaobo, the Nobel Laureate who is under detention in China.
Earlier last week, Member of Parliament Jean-Patrick Gille and MP Noël Mamère also wrote an open letter asking the French President “not to exclude the issue of Tibet in the discussions with Chinese authorities during his forthcoming visit to Beijing.”
“France, in partnership with the European Union, must carry the banner of Tibetan freedom,” the letter read.
The letter also said that China must allow access to Tibet to everyone, including the media, and “resume the dialogue that China decided to stop.”
In response the French Foreign Minister, Laurant Fabuis said that Hollande will definitely raise the issue of human rights with China. With regard to Tibet, he said that “to find a long-lasting solution to the situation inside Tibet there is no other option than for the Chinese authorities to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama.”
In answer to another question in the poll, which was carried out between 16-18 April, 92% said that the present condition of human rights and civil liberties in China is “unsatisfactory”. When asked about Tibet, the figure jumps up to 94% of the people polled who says the situation is “unsatisfactory”.
On the question about the current of self-immolations in Tibet since 2009, more than 80% of the people polled said that they feel “in solidarity with the Tibetans”. About 80% were in favour of the French President meeting with the Dalai Lama if he visits France.
In April 2010, US President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama were voted the world’s two most popular leaders, according to a poll conducted in six countries by Harris Interactive for France24 and Radio France-Internationale.
The Tibetan spiritual leader was at second place at 75 per cent, followed by the then US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton at 62 per cent.
Former Pope Benedict XVI was the seventh most popular leader with 36 per cent support.
During his 37-hour trip to China, the French president is expected to sign a “letter of intention” on nuclear programmes and deals on Airbus and also French public gas and electricity companies.