VILNIUS – A group of people stage a picket in front of the Chinese embassy in Vilnius on Monday in an effort to draw Lithuanian and EU politicians' attention to human rights violations in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong.
"We are here today to urge China, Lithuanian politicians and the European Union to address the situation in Tibet, Xinjiang and Hong Kong," said Robertas Mazeika, one of the organizers of the picket.
"The focus is on Xinjiang now, but the situation in Tibet is exactly the same: there are detention camps, illegal arrests, disappearances and torture of people, and religious persecution there, too," he said. "Religion is criminalized, and monks and nuns are sent to re-education camps."
The participants of the picket also called for a boycott of the 2022 Winter Olympics in Beijing.
"States and the Lithuanian government should press for the Olympic Games to either be cancelled or postponed, or at least to be boycotted at the highest level," Mazeika said, adding that the games "have been bought by the totalitarian regime" and that "athletes become hostages there."
The choice of Beijing as the venue for the games "does no credit to the International Olympic Committee", he said.
The member of the Tibet Support Group expressed his hope that the voice of Lithuanian politicians in the EU's communication with China will be significant and that all agreements will be concluded on the basis of human rights.
"By entering into economic agreements, we are actually legitimizing China's authoritarian regime as it is," he said.
While protests against the Chinese government's actions in Tibet and other regions have been held in Lithuania for more than 20 years now, there has been no response from the embassy, according to Mazeika.
Tibet lost its autonomy from China back in 1951 after the Chinese army invaded the territory that had declared independence. Beijing maintains that it liberated Tibet, but many local people accuse the central administration of religious and cultural oppression.
Lithuania officially considers the Himalayan region of Tibet to be a part of China, but, along with other EU member countries, calls for peaceful regulation of relations between the Chinese administration and Tibetans.
Recently, China has been facing mounting criticism from around the world over its treatment of the mostly Muslim Uighur population in the north-western region of Xinjiang.
Human rights groups say at least a million Uyghurs and other Turkic-speaking Muslims are being held in the so-called "re-education camps" in Xinjiang.
Observers say such facilities are part of a government campaign to forcibly assimilate ethnic minorities, sometimes using torture and forced labor. Mass rapes and the forced sterilization of women are also alleged to have taken place in the camps.
China initially denied the existence of the camps, but it now describes them as vocational education and training centers aimed at countering Muslim radicalism and separatist tendencies.
Beijing says people attend the centers voluntarily and improve their employment prospects.