Tibetans in Switzerland denounce China’s intimidation tactics
The Tibetan diaspora community in Switzerland accuses the Chinese government of using repressive tactics in the Alpine nation.
Switzerland’s German-language weekly NZZ am Sonntag cited on Sunday a letter from the three most prominent Tibetan organisations to Swiss President Ueli Maurer.
“The Tibetan community in exile in Switzerland is increasingly being watched and systematically intimidated by the Chinese government,” the letter claims.
This intimidation is particularly evident at rallies, but control efforts are also increasingly manifest in the digital world.
“China’s self-confident and demanding behaviour is noticeable in relation to the Tibetan exile community in Switzerland, among other things,” says Isabelle Graber, aspokeswoman for the Swiss Federal Intelligence Service.
“Official receptions of the [Tibetan spiritual leader] Dalai Lama will no longer be tolerated by China in any way and will be punished retroactively with various measures,” she noted.
Last March, Defence Minister Viola Amherd, whose department includes the intelligence service, said “the surveillance of exiled communities in Switzerland violates Switzerland’s sovereignty and democratic values.”
There are some 7,500 members of the Tibetan diaspora living in Switzerland.
The NZZ am Sonntag report gave several examples of Tibetan groups coming under pressure from Beijing in Switzerland.
One involved the Chinese ambassador to Switzerland setting up a meeting with Swiss parliament at the exact same time it was supposed to receive Tibetan groups. The Tibetan event was scrapped.
Chinese representatives reportedly sought to dissuade Swiss politicians from officially welcoming the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, when he visited Switzerland last September.
In addition, Chinese authorities try to nip Tibetan demonstrations in the bud by intervening with the governments of the relevant countries.
China denies the accusations. “They come out of nowhere and are unfounded,” said the media department of the Chinese Embassy in Bern.
Meanwhile, Switzerland’s foreign affairs ministry has announced that it will receive a Tibetan delegation to discuss the situation.
Currently, between 15 and 25 Tibetans per month apply for asylum in Switzerland. Some of them hail from the Tibetan diaspora in India or Nepal rather than China.
Maurer visited China in April and signed a memorandum of understanding confirming Switzerland’s future participation in China’s Belt and Road Initiative.