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Women in the digital era: Unleashing the potential of female talent for a stronger Europe

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Huawei is celebrating International Women’s Day today (8 March) by holding a debate on gender equality, diversity and inclusion in the digital technology sector and society as a whole. 

The debate, 'Women in the Digital Era: Unleashing the Potential of Female Talent for a Stronger Europe', involved MEPs, representatives from European agencies and industry associations, and Huawei executives, and focused on how to get more women into leadership roles in the digital and wider economy.

“It is a fantastic way to celebrate International Women’s Day. I couldn’t think of a better way to do it, so congratulations to Huawei for the initiative,” said keynote speaker Maria da Graça Carvalho MEP, the European Parliament’s Rapporteur for the flagship report on Closing the Digital Gender Gap.

Huawei’s Senior EU Public Affairs Manager Berta Herrero moderated the conference’s two panels, 'Women’s Participation in Europe’s Recovery' and 'Women in Cybersecurity'. 

“We are proud to organize these conferences. We are happy to invest our resources in fostering the debate in the cybersecurity and technological fields with respect to equality, diversity and inclusion. Our end goal is to inspire the next generation of women to shape the world of tomorrow, and to build the appropriate foundations for them to be able to do it,” she said.


Watch the full debate

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WHAT THEY SAID DURING THE DEBATE:

Maria da Graça Carvalho, MEP: “We need to make sure that we remove the obstacles for women’s participation in the digital economy. We cannot afford digital to become a new way of discrimination, so we need to act. In Europe, only 18% of the professionals who work in ICT are women. 17% of students in ICT-related subjects are girls. Less than 3% of girls between 6 and 10 years-old want to work in ICT when they grow up. The importance of role models is crucial, that women identify with other women who are successful in careers in ICT.”

Agnieszka Stasiakowska,Senior Business Acceleration Manager, European Commission’s Executive Agency for SMEs: “We need more women in governing boards of companies, we need more women in science, in academia. We need to invest in skills enhancement, in leadership enhancement, in showing those model roles to women, sharing personal stories.”

Branwen Miles, Policy Advisor, COPA/COGECA (the European association of farmers and agri-cooperatives): “Digital tools have the ability to revolutionize the agricultural sector to help and assist farmers in becoming more sustainable, more efficient. This can also be an avenue of economic empowerment for women. Because there’s still this untapped potential that women farmers have which we need to support, to advocate and give them the opportunity to reach this potential.”

Sophie Batas, Huawei’s Director for Cyber Security and Data Privacy in Europe: “Cybersecurity is a very multi-disciplinary sector. It requires various types of profiles and very specific skills, for instance: caring for people, being able to communicate in a precise way swiftly, negotiation skills, a broad understanding of the situation, ability to react quickly, and I think all those skills are naturally embedded in the DNA of women. That’s why we have a growing number of women in cybersecurity. I’m also experiencing it in Huawei and it’s a pleasure to work hand in hand with other women and with men.”  

Nina Hasratyan, Policy Manager, European Cyber Security Organisation (ECSO); Operational Coordinator, Women4Cyber Foundation: “We hope that women role models in cybersecurity will inspire the young generations and show them the pool of possibilities. Only 11% of the cybersecurity workforce in the world are women; it’s only 7% in Europe, very disappointing results here. We need to step up a lot. That’s exactly the reason we created Women4Cyber to actually have concrete activities and actions and show concrete results..”

Iva Tasheva, Co-Founder and Cybersecurity Management Lead, CyEn: “If we want society to be inclusive, we also have to have diversity in the design of technological solutions, to take into consideration the interests, shortcomings and issues of the different groups there are. It would work for me as a woman, it would work for everyone eventually, whether it’s language, interests or background that differentiates us.”

Berta Herrero, Senior EU Public Affairs Manager, Huawei: “For the Europe of tomorrow to be a Union of Equals, we need to start building true and full equality at all levels, in all fields, and across all countries and regions.”
“We rise up by lifting others. Change can only happen if society as a whole believes in it. So both men and women need to be part of this fight for equality, for inclusion and for diversity in the digital sphere and beyond.”

AND MEN… ON HOW MEN… CAN BEST SUPPORT THE FIGHT FOR EQUALITY IN THE DIGITAL ERA 

Ibán García del Blanco MEP: “It’s a question of attitude. I think men have to become feminists as well, because feminism is not only a question of feelings (or) justice, but even a question of efficiency from the economic perspective.”

Philip Herd, Huawei EU Communications Director: 
“It’s a supporting role (that men can play) in many ways, and it may be simple things such as making the workplace more inclusive, less threatening or making the work-life balance better, because it’s a fact that burden of child care, balancing of career and home, generally falls on women more than on men.”

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US and China positions at a standstill in entrenched Tianjin talks

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With no indication of a US-China leaders' summit in the works, nor any outcomes announced from high-level diplomatic talks on Monday (26 July), relations between Beijing and Washington appear to be at a standstill as both sides insist the other must make concessions for ties to improve, write Michael Martina and David Brunnstrom.

US officials had stressed that Deputy Secretary of State Wendy Sherman's trip to the northern Chinese port city of Tianjin to meet Foreign Minister Wang Yi and other officials was a chance to ensure that stiffening competition between the two geopolitical rivals does not veer into conflict.

But the combative statements that emerged from the meeting – albeit coupled with suggestions from officials that closed-door sessions were marginally more cordial – mirrored the tone set in Alaska in March, when the first senior-level diplomatic talks under President Joe Biden were overshadowed by rare public vitriol from both sides.

While Tianjin did not expose the same degree of outward hostility that was on display in Alaska, the two sides appeared to stop short of actually negotiating anything, sticking instead to lists of established demands.

Sherman pressed China on actions Washington says run counter to the rules-based international order, including Beijing's crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong, what the U.S. government has deemed is an ongoing genocide in Xinjiang, abuses in Tibet and the curtailing of press freedoms.

"I think it'd be wrong to characterize the United States as somehow seeking or soliciting China's cooperation," a senior U.S. administration official told reporters after the talks, referring to global concerns such as climate change, Iran, Afghanistan and North Korea.

"It is going to be up to the Chinese side to determine how ready they are as well to… take the next step," a second U.S. administration official said of bridging disagreements.

But Wang insisted in a statement that the ball was in the United States' court.

"When it comes to respecting international rules, it is the United States that must think again," he said, demanding that Washington remove all unilateral sanctions and tariffs on China.

China's Foreign Ministry has recently signaled there could be preconditions for the United States on which any kind of co-operation would be contingent, a stance some analysts say is a recipe for diplomatic ossification and that leaves dim prospects for improved ties.

Bonnie Glaser, an Asia expert at the German Marshall Fund of the United States, said it was important for the two sides to maintain some form of engagement. At the same time, there appeared to be no agreement in Tianjin for follow-up meetings or mechanisms for ongoing dialogue.

"That will probably leave US allies and partners uneasy. They are hoping for greater stability and predictability in the US-China relationship," Glaser said.

Both sides are likely to be disappointed if they expect the other to give in first, she added.

There has been some expectation in foreign policy circles that Biden could meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping for the first time since becoming president on the sidelines of a G20 summit in Italy in October.

White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said the prospect of a Biden-Xi meeting did not come up in Tianjin, though she added that she expects there will be some opportunity to engage at some point.

Indications are, meanwhile, that the Biden administration may scale up both enforcement actions impacting Beijing – such as cracking down on Iranian oil sales to China – and coordination with allies in the context of countering China, including another summit later this year that Biden is keen to host with the leaders of Japan, Australia, and India.

Biden's White House also has given few signals that it intends to roll back tariffs on Chinese goods established under the Trump administration.

At the same time, cooperation on the COVID-19 pandemic seems almost entirely out of reach, with the United States calling Beijing's rejection of a World Health Organization plan for further study of the virus' origin "irresponsible" and "dangerous".

There has been little sign either of a willingness by China to cooperate with Washington on the climate issue, a priority for Biden, despite energetic entreaties by U.S. climate envoy John Kerry.

"What was on display in Tianjin is that both sides are still very far apart on how they view the value and role of diplomatic engagement," said Eric Sayers, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Scott Kennedy, a China specialist at Washington's Center for Strategic and International Studies,, said neither side saw much upside for now in being more cooperative.

"And there's no low-hanging fruit for cooperation for either side and any gesture toward co-operation actually comes with significant costs, both domestic and strategic," he said.

"I think we ought to have very low expectations about the two sides finding common ground and stabilizing the relationship in the near future."

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Chinese president Xi Jinping visits troubled region of Tibet

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President Xi Jinping (pictured) has visited the politically troubled region of Tibet, the first official visit by a Chinese leader in 30 years, writes BBC.

The president was in Tibet from Wednesday to Friday, but the visit only reported by state media on Friday due to the sensitivities of the trip.

China is accused of suppressing cultural and religious freedom in the remote and mainly Buddhist region.

The government denies the accusations.

In footage released by state broadcaster CCTV, Mr Xi was seen greeting a crowd wearing ethnic costumes and waving the Chinese flag as he left his plane.

He arrived in Nyingchi, in the south-east of the country and visited a number of locations to learn about urban development, before travelling to the capital Lhasa on the high-altitude railway.

While in Lhasa, Mr Xi visited the Potala Palace, the traditional home of exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

People in the city had "reported unusual activities and monitoring of their movement" ahead of his visit, advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet said on Thursday.

Mr Xi last visited the region 10 years ago as vice-president. The last sitting Chinese leader to officially visit Tibet was Jiang Zemin in 1990.

State media said Mr Xi took time to learn about the work being done on ethnic and religious affairs and the work done to protect Tibetan culture.

Many exiled Tibetans accuse Beijing of religious repression and eroding their culture.

Tibet has had a tumultuous history, during which it has spent some periods functioning as an independent entity and others ruled by powerful Chinese and Mongolian dynasties.

China sent in thousands of troops to enforce its claim on the region in 1950. Some areas became the Tibetan Autonomous Region and others were incorporated into neighbouring Chinese provinces.

China says Tibet has developed considerably under its rule, but campaign groups say China continues to violate human rights, accusing it of political and religious repression.

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More Tibetan Buddhists behind bars in July

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On 6 July 2021, the exiled spiritual leader of Tibetans, the Dalai Lama, turned 86. For Tibetans around the world, the Dalai Lama remains their guardian; a symbol of compassion and hope to restore peace in Tibet, and ensure genuine autonomy through peaceful means. For Beijing, the Nobel Peace Prize winner is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to undermine China’s integrity by pursuing an independent Tibet, write Dr Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy and Willy Fautré.

As a consequence, Beijing considers any country engaging with the spiritual leader or raising the situation in Tibet as interference in its internal affairs. Similarly, Beijing does not allow Tibetans to celebrate the Dalai Lama’s birthday. Moreover, the communist government in Beijing applies harsh punishment for any such attempt, just as it continues its campaign to undermine the Tibetan language, culture and religion, as well as the rich history through brutal repression.

For year Beijing has continued to discredit and subvert the Dalai Lama. Displays by Tibetans of the Dalai Lama’s photo, public celebrations and sharing of his teaching via mobile phones or social media are often harshly punished. This month, as they celebrated the Dalai Lama’s birthday many Tibetans were arrested according to Golog Jigme, a former Tibetan political prisoner now living in Switzerland.

As such, Chinese officials in Sichuan province arrested two Tibetans. Kunchok Tashi and Dzapo, in their 40s, were taken into custody in Kardze in the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR). They were arrested on suspicion of being part of a group of social media that encouraged the reciting of Tibetan prayers to commemorate their spiritual leader’s birthday.

Over the past years, the Chinese authorities have continued to intensify pressure on Tibetans, punishing cases of ‘political subversion’. In 2020, the Chinese authorities in Tibet sentenced four Tibetan monks to long prison terms following a violent raid by the police on their monastery in Tingri county.

The cause of the raid was the discovery of a cell phone, owned by Choegyal Wangpo, a 46-year-old monk at Tingri’s Tengdro monastery, with messages sent to monks living outside Tibet and records of financial contributions made to a monastery in Nepal damaged in a 2015 earthquake, according to a Human Rights Watch report. Choegyal was arrested, interrogated and severely beaten. Following this development, police and other security forces visited his home village of Dranak, raided the place and beat more Tengdro monks and villagers, detaining about 20 of them on suspicion of having exchanged messages with other Tibetans abroad or of having possessed photographs or literature related to the Dalai Lama.

Three days after the raid, in September 2020, a Tengdro monk named Lobsang Zoepa took his own life in apparent protest against the crackdown by the authorities. Soon after his suicide internet connections to the village were cut off. Most of the monks detained were held without trial for months, some are believed to have been released on the condition of committing to not carrying out any political acts.

Three monks were not released. Lobsang Jinpa, 43, deputy head of the monastery, Ngawang Yeshe, 36 and Norbu Dondrub, 64. They were subsequently tried in secret on unknown charges, found guilty and given harsh sentences: Choegyal Wangpo was sentenced to 20 years in prison, Lobsang Jinpa to 19, Norbu Dondrub to 17 and Ngawang Yeshe to five years. These harsh sentences are unprecedented and indicative of the increase in restrictions on Tibetans to communicate freely, and practice their fundamental freedoms, including freedom of expression.

Under President Xi, China has become more oppressive at home and aggressive abroad. In response, democratic governments across the world have amplified their condemnation of China’s human rights violations, with some taking concrete action, such as imposing sanctions. For the future, as China’s regional and global clout continue to increase, like-minded democratic allies across the world must hold Beijing to account concerning the situation in Tibet.

Willy Fautré is the director of the Brussels-based NGO Human Rights Without Frontiers. Zsuzsa Anna Ferenczy is a research fellow at Academia Sinica and an affiliated scholar at Vrije Universiteit Brussel’s political science department. 

Guest posts are the opinions of the author, and are not endorsed by EU Reporter.

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