Request for the French president to put human rights and Tibet at the heart of his visit to China

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Angelo Cavalli / AGF / Photononstop via AFP

Paris, 30 March 2023. On the occasion of President Macron’s upcoming visit to China, the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH) and its member organisations, the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) and the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme (LDH), have called on him to place the issue of human rights – notably in Tibet – at the heart of exchanges with his Chinese contacts.

President Macron is on an official visit to Beijing and Guangzhou from 4 to 8 April this year. He will be accompanied by an important delegation of economic actors and figures drawn from various spheres as well as the President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, in accordance with the decision taken at the European summit held in Brussels on 24 March 2023. The presidential spokesperson at the Elysée has specified that the war in Ukraine will be the focus of discussions.

"We understand that Ukraine has an important place in the discussions between President Macron and President Xi Jinping, but that must not be at the expense of exchanges on human rights which are in a deplorable state throughout China and in Hong Kong, Xinjiang (Uighur region) and Tibet, where the Chinese government’s policy of forced assimilation threatens ultimately to eradicate Tibetan culture and identity," pointed out Vincent Metten, Director of European Affairs for the International Campaign for Tibet.

According to Freedom House rankings, for the third consecutive year Tibet is the least free country on the planet, on a par with South Sudan and Syria. Proof that the Tibetan people continue to suffer under Chinese repression, at least two more Tibetans set themselves on fire last year, bringing to almost 160 the number of such acts of self-immolation in Tibet since February 2009.

"It is important to recalibrate relations between France and China in order to put human rights at the heart of French foreign policy. President Macron must strongly condemn, both privately and publicly, the repression affecting Chinese activists and human rights defenders and the people of Hong Kong, the Uighur region and Tibet," insists Patrick Baudouin, President of the Ligue des Droits de l’Homme.

In advance of the visit, LDH, FIDH and ICT have addressed a letter and briefing note to President Macron, requesting that he encourage the resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama in order to find a sustainable and mutually acceptable solution to the Sino-Tibetan conflict. These organisations would point out that the Dalai Lama is not asking for independence for his people, but genuine autonomy as provided for by the Chinese constitution. They also draw the president’s attention to the fate of a million Tibetan schoolchildren who are forcibly placed in boarding schools, where they are cut off from their families and their culture, as part of a policy recently condemned by United Nations experts.

For Andrea Giorgetta, Director of the FIDH Asia Desk: "China is opposed to the universality of human rights in the name of cultural relativism. Imposing such a hierarchy of rights is unacceptable. As regards the alarming human rights situation in China, France and its European partners must remind the Chinese authorities that human rights are indivisible and universal and apply to everyone without distinction."

The last official visit by President Macron to China was in November 2019. No encounter between the French president and his Chinese counterpart has taken place since then.

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