Freedom Protests Greet Xi in Paris

By Tsering Choephel

DHARAMSALA, 7 May: Activists from Students for a Free Tibet (SFT) and the International Tibet Network (ITN) unfurled a 10-foot banner with slogans “FREE TIBET” and “Dictator Xi Jinping, Your Time Is Up” as the Chinese president’s motorcade passed below it during his arrival in Paris, France, last Sunday for his Europe tour.

Several thousand protesters, mostly Tibetans living in France and neighbouring European countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands, gathered in Paris to protest against Xi’s visit and call for an end to the Chinese Communist Party’s repressive rule in Tibet. A day before Xi’s arrival, two SFT activists, Tsela Zoksang and Nyima, climbed lampposts and raised the Tibetan national flag near the iconic Arc de Triomphe. They were detained by French police and released after 10 hours, according to statements from the activist group.

Freedom songs were sung, passionate speeches were delivered, and Tibetan activists performed a moving skit depicting the CCP’s repression of Tibetan religious and linguistic practices inside Tibet, as well as the silencing of those who stand up to injustice.

International rights groups such as Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and the International Campaign for Tibet, among others, have urged the French president to raise human rights abuses against Tibetans, Uyghurs, and others with Xi. Sikyong Penpa Tsering, the head of the exiled Tibetan government, met Macron on April 30 and urged the French president “not to forget Tibet.”

In a letter signed by 14 French politicians on May 2, calling on Macron to raise the Tibet issue with Xi, it says, “The resumption of Sino-Tibetan dialogue and respect for the rights of the Tibetan people must be at the heart of French strategy vis-à-vis China,” according to a report by RFA.

In an interview published on Sunday, Macron said he would raise human rights concerns with Xi, according to an Associated Press report today. However, aside from reports of discussions on issues considered crucial, such as the Russian-Ukrainian war, escalating conflict in the Middle East, and trade tariffs, there are no reports of human rights issues being raised during the meeting.

Xi has now embarked on his next destinations, Serbia and Hungary, two European countries that have partnered with China under China’s Belt and Road Initiative.

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