Denmark commission finds Copenhagen illegally silenced anti-China demonstrators

A commission appointed by the government of Denmark this week criticized the country’s Foreign Ministry for giving into Chinese pressure and preventing anti-Beijing demonstrations during state visits in 2012 and 2013.

The Tibet Commission found that Denmark’s intelligence and security service used pressure to convince police in Copenhagen to stop all anti-China demonstrations, in violation of the country’s constitution.

Protesters were barred from gathering within sight of the visiting Chinese delegations. The police hid them behind buses and confiscated Tibetan flags.

China had cancelled several official visits to Denmark after a 2009 “unofficial” meeting between then Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen and the Dalai Lama. The commission found that the canceled visits caused Copenhagen to pursue China-friendly policies.

This was evident in 2011, when the Dalai Lama visited Denmark to give lectures on management and the meaning of life. The organizers of that visit made it clear that there would be no political meetings during his stay in the country. 

“This issue is being discussed in the press and its being dealt by many ministerial and politicians. Several ministers have already commented that they will try to remedy these mistakes,” Anders Højmark Andersen, chairman of the Tibet Support Committee in Denmark, told RFA’s Tibetan Service.

“This is the second report by the Tibet Commission which has dealt with period from 1995 to 2015, so it covers 20 years. There have been more than 200 Chinese official visits to Denmark in this period but it also deals with Tibetans’ visit to Denmark like His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s visit,” Andersen said.

Andersen noted that although pro-Tibetan independence groups were allowed to demonstrate, they were often placed in areas where visiting Chinese officials would never run into them.

“And that’s the problem,” he said. “During Hu Jintao’s visit in 2012, police even took Tibetan flags away from us in the street but we still succeeded in showing the Tibetan flag to the Chinese president fortunately”.

“I think that now Chinese officials will hesitate before visiting Denmark on a very high level. And I also think they will only send lower-level leaders to Denmark in the future because now they know that they cannot persuade the police to hide us anymore,” Andersen said.

He noted that Sino-Danish relations have been good since 2008 when Beijing and Copenhagen entered into a strategic partnership, but things have soured more recently.

“The Danish government has realized the worsening human rights record in China and the attempt by the incumbent President Xi to assume lifelong leadership,” said Andersen.

China routinely pressures foreign governments to silence criticism of Beijing, Mandie McKeown, executive director for the UK-based International Tibet Network

International, told RFA in an email.

“We have seen this kind of influence many times before. Most notably back in 1999 when Metropolitan Police broke U.K. law in their handling of demonstrators during the state visit of then-Chinese president Jiang Zemin,” she said.

“In a high court case brought by the Free Tibet Campaign (where I worked), the police agreed they had policed Free Tibet demonstrators “unlawfully” by removing Free Tibet banners and Tibetan National flags from people solely on the basis that they were protesting against the Chinese President’s visit,” said McKeown .

She said Beijing has tried to bully other governments into silence, recalling that in 2016 at least 12 governments issued a joint statement to the U.N. Human Rights Council saying they had been targeted by Chinese pressure.

“Ireland was threatened with the cancelling of a multi-euro trade deal. The Irish Times reported that the Irish government had been warned by the Chinese authorities that a vote by Ireland at the United Nations Human Rights Council could have consequences for a multi-million-euro beef trade deal,” she said.

“Notably we have seen China move towards a more sophisticated plan to build influence by doubling down on building their soft power and its ability to influence other countries, communities and individuals,” McKeown said.

RFA attempted to reach the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Justice Department in Denmark for comments but received no reply.

Written in English by Eugene Whong.

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