Standing shoulder to shoulder with Tibetans

Thomas Mann

Thomas Mann

By Thomas Mann

BRUSSELS, Belgium, 8 September 2016

Ladies and Gentlemen, distinguished guests, venerable Holiness the Dalai Lama.

Dr Lobsang Sangay, Sikyong, Central Tibetan Administration; Kelsang Gyaltsen, Special Envoy of His Holiness; Jan Peumanns, Speaker of the Flemish Parliament.

Dear Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet; Henri Malosse, former President of the European Economic and Social Committee.

Dear colleagues and members of the Tibet Interest Group in the European Parliament, the European Commission, and the European Council.

Members of the Tibet Office Brussels, of ICT, Les Amis Du Tibet, Lights on Tibet and all the supporters of the Tibetan people. Dear Tibetans!

Today in the heart of Europe, we open the seventh international conference of the Tibet Support Groups. I am happy to recognise how many people are here to contribute to this event and to raise their voice for the Tibetans around the world.

The conference is one of the most effective platforms for support groups, NGOs, and parliamentarians to exchange views on human rights violations on the Tibetan plateau, to adjust global protection for persecuted Tibetans, and to coordinate international campaigns. It is also a good opportunity to send a strong signal towards the Chinese government.

It is a great honour that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is taking part in this conference. He will also visit Paris and Strasbourg next week.

People around the world including the European Union are inspired by His Holiness. He raises awareness for the Tibetan case with his unique aura and charisma, his remarkable messages, and his outstanding intellectuality. At the same time he is always very close to all human beings.

The Tibet Interest Group in the European Parliament raises awareness for Tibetan people, who are chased, suppressed, and suffering in their home country. Since 15 years I am privileged to be the leader of parliamentarians who support the Middle-Way approach.

  • We believe in the document of utmost relevance: The Memorandum on Genuine Autonomy for the Tibetan People.
  • We still demand the nomination of a Special Representative on Tibetan affairs as member of the European External Action Service.
  • For our regular monthly meetings we invite high-ranking experts from all over the world: former Tibetan prisoners, monks, nuns, scientists, journalists. They all inform us about the political situation, the deficits of human rights, and unacceptable living conditions.

Some of our highlights

In March 2013
Our guests were Kirti Rinpoche from the Kirti monastry in Tibet, and high-ranking members of the Tibetan exile-parliament.
In June 2013
A conference on the Tibetan environmental issue took place in Brussels. The topic was “Denuding, Degrading and Depopulating” of the Tibetan plateau. It has a big impact on the world climate with one of the largest glacier landscapes worldwide and the sources of the six biggest Asian rivers.
Another conference on this topic was organised in November 2015 under the title: ‘Environmental Degradation on the Third Pole’.
In October 2014
We welcomed Lobsang Sangay for the one-hundred-first Tibet Intergroup meeting.
In June 2015
the Dalai Lama celebrated his 80th birthday. With Csaba Sogor we organised an exhibition in the European Parliament, one week in Brussels as well as one week in Strasbourg. We called it “Ways of Wisdom” in reference to the path of His Holiness. More than 350 visitors joined the event.
For three days a Buddhist-sand-mandala was drawn by a Tibetan monk. It had the size of one square meter.
In December 2015
The European Parliament passed an initiative report on the relationship between the EU and China. We succeded in integrating several important chapters:

  • The status of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (Middle-Way-Approach).
  • The re-establishment of the dialogue between China and the Tibetan Parliament-in-exile.
  • Environmental damages and resource exploitation.
  • The suppression of Buddhist religion and the ban of the portrait of the Dalai Lama.
  • The Chinese terrorist laws, which legalise violations of rights by government forces against so-called ‘potential’ terrorists and declares self-immolations as acts of terrorism.
  • Travel restrictions for EU citizens to visit Tibet.
In March 2016
Like every year, we celebrated the anniversary of the Tibetan Uprising Day. We, as members of the European Parliament, participated in a demonstration and a march from the European Commission to the Chinese embassy in Brussels. It was a strong signal of European solidarity.
In March 2016
I was a member of an international election observing mission to Dharamshala. Together with parliamentarians from the US, Canada, Australia, France and the United Kingdom, as well as the ICT chair, Matteo Mecacci, I spent one week in the political capital of the Tibetans.
I want to express my gratitude to everyone who took part in this political process and who made it possible that Tibetans all over the world had the opportunity to vote for their representatives. The Tibetans hold their elections democratically, professionally, and with great passion. We visited schools, contacted local NGOs, and had several talks with women and youth organisations and human rights activists.
A personal highlight was the private audience of our team with His Holiness.
In April 2016
We raise awareness for the case of the missing Panchen Lama. He has been kidnapped since more than twenty years. For his twenty-seventh birthday we published press statements and videos, adressing the Chinese government and demanding his release.
In July 2016
We appealed to the European Commission, the European Council, and the Presidency of the European Parliament to emphasise the importance of the Tibetan issue during the talks with Chinese authorities. We received positive reactions by the High Representative Mme Mogherini and were assured that the heads of the European institutions frequently mention Tibet towards the Chinese.

To summarise

The Tibetans are frequently supported by the European Union and the European Parliament!

Even against resistance we do not leave Tibet alone, your culture, your language, religion and identity.

So today we stand again shoulder to shoulder with our Tibetan friends.

Tashi delek!


This is the full text of Thomas Mann's speech at the opening of the Seventh Tibet Support Groups Conference in Brussels, Belgium, on 8 September 2016.

About the author

Thomas Mann is the President of Tibet Interest Group, European Union.

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