Former presidents Hu Jintao and Jang Zemin, along with ex-Prime Minister Li Peng, have been indicted by a Spanish court on charges of genocide levied by Tibetan exile groups. Not to rain on anyone’s parade, but if the activists think that they’ll have Hu, Jang, and Li sitting in court anytime soon, they may be experiencing a surplus of confidence.
Spanish courts have a special clause in which they are allowed to hear cases on global human rights issues and levy charges against former foreign heads of state regardless of international amnesty. This has worked swimmingly when arresting elderly, half-senile Latin American dictators on vacation. If the Tibetan exile groups in Spain think that their campaign can—at the very most—be anything other than a PR move, they will likely be disappointed, as SCMP reports:
“In all likelihood, not a lot will happen,” [Nina Jorgensen, an associate professor at the Chinese Univeristy of Hong Kong’s Faculty of Law] cautioned. “The case brings attention to the issue and gives the victims at least an opportunity to bring attention to their claims.”
The Spanish court did go on to make some pretty bold claims, however:
The court “recognises that this genocide is against the country of Tibet and against the Tibetan nation, and the judges recognise that this indictment of Hu Jintao comes at the precise judicial moment ‘when his diplomatic immunity expires’”, the Madrid-based Comité de Apoyo al Tíbet, a plaintiff in the case, said in a statement.
Using words like “country” and “nation” when referring to Tibet, let alone trying to bring China’s leaders to court, may be enough to earn Spain the “Norway treatment” of cold shoulders, visa denial, and super awkward trade.