Statement of Congressman Mark Udall at the Congressional briefing on Tibet

Congressman Udall chaired a December 6, 2001, briefing for the Congressional Human Rights Caucus Members on the Human Rights Situation in Tibet:

I’m very pleased to be here today to introduce this important briefing on the human rights situation in Tibet, and I am especially pleased to welcome our five distinguished guests.

Before I turn over the floor to our panelists, I’d like to take a moment to share my personal and congressional perspectives on this issue.

As someone who has been fortunate to travel extensively throughout Asia, I feel a deep connection with that part of the world. I have spent time in Tibet, getting to know the people and sharing in their customs and traditions. So it has been difficult for me to watch over the years as China has acted against the people, religion, environment and culture of Tibet.

In the half century of Chinese occupation, over one million Tibetans have been killed, and thousands more have been unjustly tortured, shot, and imprisoned. And the situation has not improved.

On September 21, 1987, the Dalai Lama made his first political speech in the United States, at the invitation of this very forum, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus. That famous “five-point speech” marked the beginning of an increased congressional and international focus on the human rights violations taking place in Tibet.

Since then, the struggle to end the repression in Tibet has continued both through the efforts of nongovernmental organizations and of lawmakers here on Capitol Hill.

An example of such an effort is ‘The Tibetan Policy Act of 2001,’ which was introduced in the House by Representative Tom Lantos and in the Senate by Senator Dianne Feinstein. Together with 90 of my colleagues, I am a cosponsor of this comprehensive bill, which passed on the House side in May of this year as part of the State Department Authorization Act. The bill seeks, among other things, to help the Tibetans preserve their identity as a people. I strongly hope that the Senate will soon take action on this important bill.

The struggle for Tibet is now taking place in a new global context, where international cooperation in the fight against terrorism is more important than ever before. U.S. relations with China and with other countries have already begun to shift to take into account this new paradigm.

It is, however, very important to remember that each country views this fight against terrorism from its own perspective.

The word “terrorist” does not necessarily refer to the same category of people in Beijing as it does in the United States of America. So we should not be silent if China, or other governments, choose to take advantage of this anti-terrorism fight to justify their own internal crackdowns on perceived political opponents, “separatists,” religious activists.

It is important that we do not let down all the persistent and courageous individuals, within China and other authoritarian states, who on a daily basis are fighting for democracy and their human rights.

Bearing this in mind, I hope that we, during the course of this briefing, can discuss both the current human rights situation in Tibet and how it might be affected by the changing world order following September 11.

As a final comment, I would like to take this opportunity to thank Congressman Tom Lantos and Mrs. Annette Lantos for their enduring commitment to the human rights situation in Tibet.

Congressman Tom Lantos is the founding Co-Chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, and serves as a source of inspiration to all of us concerned with human rights in Tibet and around the globe.

Let’s turn to our panelists. I am pleased to welcome today Mike Parmly, Principal Deputy Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, who has been invited to give us an update on the situation of religious freedom in Tibet, and who will also discuss the recent release of the State Department’s Report on Religious Freedom; T. Kumar, Advocacy Director for Asia, Amnesty International USA, who will give us a general update on the current human rights situation in Tibet; Bhuchung Tsering, Director of the International Campaign for Tibet, who has been invited to brief us on human rights efforts in Tibet in light of the re-opening of the U.S.-China human rights dialogue, China’s entry to the World Trade Organization, and the international campaign against terrorism; Jigme Ngapo, Director of Tibetan Service, Radio Free Asia, who will focus on the accomplishments, problems, and potential of Radio Free Asia, which provides valuable and independent information to the Tibetan people; Eva Herzer, former President, Tibet Justice Center, who will discuss her work with the Tibet Justice Center in its democracy-building efforts with the Tibetan Government in Exile. Ms. Herzer leads the Tibet Justice Center’s effort to conduct grassroots workshops in self-governance education in Tibetan exile communities in India.

Given the short time available today, I would ask our guests to kindly limit their statements to 10 minutes or less to leave time for questions.

 

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