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September 25, 2016 / 22 Elul, 5776
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Where’s the EU on Tibetan Rights?

Why aren't you boycotting Chinese entities operating in occupied Tibet?
A brutalized Tibetan protester.

A brutalized Tibetan protester.

By Veronica Slootsky, MD

Dear Europe,

I’ve heard that you plan to boycott “Israeli entities operating beyond the Green Line.”

I am glad that you are thinking about the idea of human rights. After all, the lack thereof drove many of the Israelis you seek to boycott to abandon your green fields for the dusty Middle East after you butchered their families. So, I’m glad that you now care about the well-being of the vulnerable, the oppressed, and the voiceless.

I’m just confused about a few small details, Europe.

You see, I, too, am a novice advocate for human rights. I have volunteered with refugees from Sudan and Latin America as a physician, and ran the local chapter of Physicians for Human Rights at my medical school. In the future, I hope to work for the benefit of all refugees — including both Palestinian refugees and Jewish refugees from Arab lands. People are people, and bias under these circumstances isn’t just unfair; it’s deadly.

Recently, I attended an event in Washington, D.C. that promoted the culture and the struggle for freedom of the Tibetan people—a peaceful, ancient nation that dwelled in its mountainous lands for millennia. However, their mountains also guard an abundance of natural resources that has attracted some unwanted attention. The Tibetan nation has now faced decades of steady destruction by the communist Chinese regime through political oppression, forced assimilation, and religious persecution.

At the event, I spoke to survivors of political detention and torture. I met with young journalists and musicians who, because they spoke out for freedom, can never return home.

One of the elderly leaders of the community spoke with admiration about the ability of the Jewish people to preserve their culture despite their long exile. He stated that the Tibetans must draw lessons from the Jews. I thanked him, and said that I would pray that he, too, could someday return to his homeland.

There are videos of Tibetan teenagers falling in the snow as they hike in a line across mountainous borders, shot dead by Chinese snipers. Have you seen this, Europe? Or are only children named Muhammad newsworthy in France-2’s eyes?

In fact, any concerns you have about the Chinese oppression of the Tibetans seems to be limited to the biannual EU-China human rights dialogues. These meetings, attended by low-level diplomats, are held behind closed doors and are not open to the press or the public. You may have thought that holding these talks would be an important first step— understandable— but not much has changed since they began in 1995, and you have not pressed the issue.

If you care so much about human rights, Europe, why do you ignore the increasingly frequent self-immolations of hundreds of oppressed Tibetans? Why do you avoid the Dalai Lama as if he were a leper? Why is there no special representative from the EU to Tibet, as there has been from the United States for the past ten years? And, of course, why aren’t you making statements about boycotting Chinese entities operating in occupied Tibet?

Perhaps your growing fiscal concerns weigh heavily on your tongue.

Though creative, Israel is hardly an economic superpower like China. I can understand your hesitation.

It’s just not what I would expect from a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize.

So please, Europe, do the world a favor.

Speak up, or shut up.

Veronica Slootsky is a physician who advocates for human rights in Washington, DC. 

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