U.S. Senators urge Tibet agenda for Secretary Kerry visit to China

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Twenty one United States Senators have written to Secretary of State John Kerry asking him to “make Tibet an integral issue” during his first visit to China as Secretary on April 13. The bipartisan letter, authored by Senators Mark Udall (D-CO), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), calls for Secretary Kerry to take seven specific steps on Tibet.

“Secretary of State Kerry’s demonstrated concern about the Tibetan issue during his service in the U.S. Senate makes his visit to China timely and important,” Senator Udall said. “I know he understands the need to resume the dialogue between Chinese and Tibetan leaders, and I urge him to make resolving this longstanding and difficult problem a priority in his Beijing discussions.”

The Senators wrote to their former colleague on the eve of his visit to China. They noted John Kerry’s experience on Tibet during his long service on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including personal engagement with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Sikyong Lobsang Sangay.

In the letter, the Senators said that, “While more than 100 self-immolations of Tibetans continue to make headlines, we know that there are countless others among the six million Tibetans inside Tibet who struggle silently every day to preserve their culture, their religion, and their dignity in the face of destructive Chinese policies. The United States has a moral responsibility to help the Tibetan people in this quest.”

The letter states that the November 2012 statement by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay on Tibet “can serve as an impetus for a new level of collaborative engagement on the Tibet issue” and notes that the State Department “cited Tibet as an example of U.S.-EU strategic engagement on Asia.”

“This timely letter demonstrates that the U.S. Senate sees Tibet not only as a critical unaddressed problem, but also as a resolvable issue,” said Todd Stein, Director of Government Relations at the International Campaign for Tibet. “With the new leadership in Beijing, and a new U.S. Secretary of State who has deep familiarity with the Tibet issue, these Senators see a window of opportunity for progress.”

Specifically, the Senators ask Secretary Kerry to:

  • make Tibet an integral issue in engagement with China;
  • urge the Chinese government to resume dialogue with Tibetan leaders;
  • appoint a new Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues;
  • fund Tibet programs in the foreign aid budget;
  • coordinate with other governments to on implement recommendations by UN human rights chief Navi Pillay;
  • seek access to Tibetan areas by U.S. diplomats; and
  • establish a U.S.consulate in Lhasa.

A copy of the letter can be found here. The letter was signed by Senators Mark Udall (D-CO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Benjamin Cardin (D-MD), Susan Collins (R-ME) William Cowan (D-MA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), Al Franken (D-MN), Mike Johanns (R-NE), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Patrick Leahy (D-VT), John McCain (R-AZ), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), James Risch (R-ID), Bernard Sanders (I-VT), Tom Udall (D-NM), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

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