Hungry for Autonomy: European Parliamentarians Fast for Tibet

December 4, 2008 Updated: October 1, 2015
European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering (R) and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama speak to the press at the EU Parliament in Brussels on December 4, 2008. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)
European Parliament President Hans-Gert Poettering (R) and exiled Tibetan spiritual leader Dalai Lama speak to the press at the EU Parliament in Brussels on December 4, 2008. (John Thys/AFP/Getty Images)

BELGIUM, Brussels—Forty five members of the European Parliament (EP) are holding a 24-hour fast to salute and to support the Dalai Lama and his nonviolent struggle for autonomy in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama will address the European Parliament on Thursday and is scheduled to meet French President Sarkozy in Poland Saturday 6 Dec. The meeting caused an angered Beijing to pull out from the China-European Union Summit which was due to take place earlier this week and aimed to discuss a joint plan for the global economic crisis.

The five EP members who initiated the hunger strike said they supported the Dalai Lama's non-violent policies, but opposed the continuing clamping down of democracy and freedom of speech in China.

“It is our statement to show solidarity, first of all, of course, with the Dalai Lama; we support his middle way, of dialogue, no aggression,” said EP member Thomas Mann at a press conference.

The hunger strikers will only drink mineral water over the next 24 hours.

This is not the first time that China pressured western nations to boycott the Tibetan spiritual leader, who they say is trying to divide China by pushing for autonomy in the region. Tibet has been under Chinese communist rule since 1951. {etrelated 8120}

Meanwhile, Italian parliamentarian Marco Cappato believes that the Chinese delegation’s decision to cancel the attendance at the EU Summit was a “sign of weakness” and “impatience”.

“The right to democracy is universal. It does not belong to any state to prohibit or repress it… We are individuals against oppression," commented Mr Cappato.

“The international community should not remain neutral, and we as MEPs, 40 of us are fasting for one day, to symbolize … our support for this political and spiritual leader, His Holiness the Dalai Lama.”

The Nobel Peace Prize Laureate will address European Parliament on Thursday morning. He is scheduled to meet with the French President Nicolas Sarkozy—the current President of the EU—on Saturday December 6 in Poland. The meeting falls on the 25th anniversary of the award of the Nobel Prize to former Solidarity leader Lech Walesa.