Wednesday, July 09, 2008

EU Pres Boycotts Olympics Ceremony

By Geoff Meade, PA Europe Editor, Brussels

Sportlife: The President of the European Parliament has announced he was boycotting the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games because of the lack of progress in negotiations between China and the Dalai Lama over the future of Tibet.

Hans-Gert Poettering said he regretted the lack of a breakthrough last week in meetings between envoys of the Dalai Lama and the authorities in Beijing, adding: "Given that these talks have to date proved inconclusive, I have decided not to attend the opening ceremony of the Olympic Games.

"But I very much hope that the dialogue between the envoys of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities will soon be pursued in a constructive way aimed at achieving results."

Mr Poettering said the Dalai Lama had the full support of the European Parliament in his calls for a "middle way" in Tibet, involving cultural autonomy and religious freedom instead of independence, and in not questioning China's "territorial integrity".

He added: "We expect that China will respect its own public commitments to human rights and minority rights announced when the decision to allow China to organise the Games was taken. This is a great opportunity for China to open itself up to the world and to demonstrate that it is committed to internationally-recognised fundamental rights."

Meanwhile, Green MEPs have condemned the decision of French President Nicolas Sarkozy to attend the opening ceremony - representing the EU as well as France.

The leader of the Green group in the European Parliament, Daniel Cohn-Bendit, said: "It is scandalous that Nicolas Sarkozy will not boycott the Olympic opening ceremony.

"He said that his attendance was conditional on an improvement in the human rights situation and progress resulting from talks between the Chinese authorities and Tibetan envoys. No progress has been made. On the contrary, the Chinese have issued a thinly veiled threat to the Tibetans not to cause trouble during the Games and political prisoners continued to be detained.

"The opening ceremony is a grandiose political showcase, not a sporting event. By attending, Nicolas Sarkozy gives his endorsement and seal of approval for China's flagrant disregard of its own promises on human rights."

OLYMPIC WATCH: Human Rights in China and Beijing 2008

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