March 14, 2008 / 3:25 PM / 11 years ago

EU urges China to show restraint in Tibet

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - European Union leaders urged China on Friday to show restraint in Tibet following an outbreak of violence in Lhasa during pro-independence demonstrations, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said.

Cellphone image of people protesting in Amdo Labrang, Tibet, March 14, 2008. European Union leaders urged China on Friday to show restraint in Tibet following an outbreak of violence in Lhasa during pro-independence demonstrations, French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner said. REUTERS/TCHRD/Handout

“We asked for restraint on the part of the Chinese authorities. We asked for human rights to be respected. There is strong condemnation, coming from all the European Council and the 27 countries,” Kouchner told reporters.

However, the EU’s Slovenian presidency said the 27-nation bloc had not yet agreed on a joint declaration, although a presidency statement — which carries less political weight than summit conclusions — might be issued in the next three days.

Slovenian Foreign Minister Dimitrij Rupel said consultations were under way on a statement that would “urge the Chinese government to address the concerns of Tibetans with regard to issues of human rights” and call for dialogue between Beijing and Tibetan representatives.

EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana ridiculed any idea that the Europeans might boycott the Beijing Olympic Games over the Tibet issue, saying he planned to be there.

Peaceful marches by Buddhist monks in recent days have given way to the biggest and angriest demonstrations in Tibet in nearly two decades, just months before the Olympics.

Protesters burned shops and vehicles on Friday and chanted pro-independence slogans, prompting the Dalai Lama to urge Beijing to stop “brute force”.

Speaking at the end of a two-day EU summit in Brussels, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “We are very concerned about what’s happening in Tibet.”

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier said the EU needed to make sure of the facts before taking a position.

“We say there is a need for clarity about developments on the ground. We know there have been peaceful demonstrations,” he told a news conference.

British Foreign Secretary David Miliband added: “There are probably two important messages to go out — one is the need for restraint on all sides and secondly that substantive dialogue is the only way forward.”

Kouchner said China should think about the Olympics when considering how to handle Tibet.

“France is not supportive of a boycott but France could draw attention to the concomitance between the Olympic Games and the Tibetan hopes that China must take into account,” he said.

The EU presidency issues dozens of statements every week on issues ranging from the future of East Timor to the conduct of elections in Armenia or tension between Colombia and Venezuela.

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