US Congress passes new Tibet legislation, condemns China’s crackdown in Tibet

US Congress sealOn April 8, as the arrival of the Olympic torch was met by Tibetans and Tibet activists in San Francisco, the U.S. House of Representatives debated House Resolution 1077 calling on China to end its crackdown in Tibet and for the Beijing government to enter into a results-based dialogue with the Dalai Lama. On the morning of April 9, H.R. 1077 passed overwhelmingly by a vote of 413 to 1. H.R. 1077 was introduced by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and others, including the nine members who made up a delegation that visited the Dalai Lama in Dharmsala in March as the crackdown in Tibet began to unfold. The full text of H.R. 1077 follows.

“We’re particularly pleased in this resolution to see the attention paid to the Tibet Policy Act and the U.S. Congress call for a US Consulate in Lhasa. The U.S. Congress was eager to officially register its strong concern for the Tibetan people and, not surprisingly, Speaker Pelosi, who has a strong record of boldly challenging the Chinese government on its human rights record, has taken the lead,” said Mary Beth Markey, ICT Vice President for International Advocacy.

Members from both parties — across the full spectrum of political views, from conservative to progressive — spoke on the House floor in powerful support of the resolution. There was no opposition. The members addressed the ongoing repression against the Tibetan people, blasted the unfounded accusations from Beijing that the Dalai Lama instigated the violence, and called for independent investigations into these allegations and the actions of Chinese authorities. They said China’s brutality violates its commitments as host of the Olympics, and called on the Beijing government to enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet. In addition, the Members who traveled to Dharmsala relayed their personal encounters with recent refugees from Tibet and His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

A full transcript of the House debate can be downloaded here. Below are excerpted remarks by Members during the House debate.

Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Speaker of the House: “All we need is strong international leadership to end that situation. China stands in the way… Probably the most insulting of all, though, is that China insists that the torch go through Tibet, that it go to Mount Everest and through Tibet on its way back to Beijing. That’s the biggest insult, I think, of all. The world should not allow that to happen… Our President should hold back any decision about going to those opening ceremonies until he sees what progress could be made, what leverage we could use to have those negotiations take place so that before too long and while His Holiness is still in good health he can return to Tibet and, indeed, the Tibetan people in their autonomous state of Tibet can be free.”

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Ranking Member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “With increasing numbers of American tourists traveling to Tibet every year, the United States has a legitimate interest in having diplomatic access to Tibet for consular services. But there should be no further openings of more Chinese consulates in the United States until China stops its repression of religious and ethnic minorities and stops violating the fundamental human rights of its own citizens.”

Rep. Howard Berman (D-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee: “If China wishes to be viewed by the world as a truly responsible power, it must put an immediate end to its shortsighted policies towards Tibet which are morally reprehensible, irresponsible and dangerous.”

Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-WI): “If China wishes to be considered an equal among the leaders of the world, it must act like one by standing for basic human rights in Tibet.”

Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ): “Both Democrats and Republicans agree that the Chinese Government needs to end the violent crackdown on nonviolent Tibetan protesters. Furthermore, it is long past time for the Chinese Government to begin, without preconditions, a dialogue with His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, and ensure that human rights and dignity of all Tibetans are protected, to address the legitimate grievances of the Tibetan people, to safeguard the people and their distinctive identity, to support economic development, cultural preservation, health care, education and environmental sustainability.

Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ): “Chinese officials admit to nearly 2,000 arrests. The China Commission estimates that there are at least 1,000 more. Frankly, I wonder if there might be thousands more, since there are large areas of Tibet from which nothing has been heard in weeks, where phone lines and cell towers and e-mail have been simply turned off. Many thousands of monks are now being held under house arrest or in lockdown. Chinese riot police have surrounded some Buddhist monasteries and are letting no one get in and no one get out. Many have been tortured. I would remind my colleagues that we are seeing now, in a massive way, what has been ongoing and pervasive for decades.

Rep. Jay Inslee (D-WA): “And I take great umbrage at this assertion that somehow [the Dalai Lama] has been the reason for violence. His position has been reasonable. He has asked for a dialogue with the Chinese Government. He has asked for an investigation to what happened in Tibet. He has not called for a boycott of the Olympics, an extremely reasonable position given what his people have undergone.

Rep. Ted Poe (R-TX): “China’s ugly personality of brutality and oppression is now being seen by all of the world. And as China tries to carry the Olympic torch throughout the world, the flame of the torch is setting peoples in this world on fire in support of the people of Tibet.

Rep. Hilda Solis (D-CA): “We must also be a beacon of hope for them and for those thousands of children that we saw at the orphanage there. They greeted us with hearts open to us with flags both representing the U.S. Government and the Tibetan people.”

Rep. Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI): “[The crisis in Tibet] is our generation’s Budapest. It is this generation of Americans who get to witness the Tibetans trying to breathe free from beneath the Communist yoke of the Chinese regime. And as we Republicans and Democrats stand together today, we stand with them, and we send a clarion message to the Communist Chinese Government. They will be free.”

Rep. Sander Levin (D-MI): “The resolution of Tibetan grievances can only occur with direct talks between the Chinese Government and the Dalai Lama. The international spotlight will remain long after the ceremonies of the Olympic Summer Games.”

Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT): “China must come to realize that Tibetans deserve more autonomy and the world community will not be silent until they achieve it.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-TX): “The resolution calls on this particular government, the Chinese Government, to begin a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, to bring about respect, to allow international monitors and journalists. I truly believe it is time now for the world to stand up.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): “China must play by the rules when it comes to human rights and to genocide. Now is the time to begin this dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. There are legitimate grievances of the Tibetan people which must be addressed, and who better to have this dialogue with than His Holiness the Dalai Lama?”

Rep. Steve Kagen (D-WI): “The people of Tibet tonight must hear that we, the people of these United States, are on their side. And we encourage the current leadership of China to support [President F.D. Roosevelt’s] four essential human freedoms everywhere in the world.”

H. Res. 1077

Whereas March 10, 2008, marked the 49th anniversary of a historic uprising against Chinese rule over the Tibetan people, which forced His Holiness, the 14th Dalai Lama, to escape into exile in India;

Whereas Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns in and around Lhasa were blocked by Chinese authorities from staging peaceful demonstrations on this anniversary date and were met with excessive force by the Chinese authorities;

Whereas protests by Tibetans spread inside the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas of China;

Whereas the accumulated grievances of almost six decades of cultural, religious, economic, and linguistic repression of the Tibetan people by the Government of the People’s Republic of China has resulted in resentments which are at the root of the Tibetan protests;

Whereas resentment of the Chinese Government by the Tibetan people has increased sharply since 2005 as a result of Chinese policies, laws, and regulations that have reduced economic opportunity for Tibetans and severely eroded the ability of Tibetans to preserve their distinctive language, culture, and religious identity;

Whereas the response by the Chinese Government to the Tibetan protests was disproportionate and extreme, reportedly resulting in the deaths of hundreds and the detention of thousands of Tibetans;

Whereas there have been reports that some Tibetans engaged in rioting that may have resulted in the destruction of government and private property, as well as the deaths of civilians;

Whereas His Holiness the Dalai Lama has used his leadership to promote democracy, freedom, and peace for the Tibetan people through a negotiated settlement of the Tibet issue, based on autonomy within the context of China;

Whereas six rounds of dialogue between representatives of the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials have not resulted in meaningful progress;

Whereas the Chinese Government has rebuffed calls by the President of the United States, the United States Congress, and world leaders to respond positively to the Dalai Lama’s willingness to be personally involved in discussions with Chinese leaders on the future of Tibet;

Whereas the Chinese Government has denigrated the Dalai Lama, labeling him as “a splittist” and “a wolf in monk’s robes”, thereby further alienating Tibetans who consider the Dalai Lama their spiritual leader;

Whereas the Dalai Lama was recognized for his contribution to world peace when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989;

Whereas the United States Congress, in recognition of the Dalai Lama’s outstanding moral and religious leadership and his advocacy of nonviolence, awarded him with the Congressional Gold Medal on October 17, 2007;

Whereas the Chinese Government has failed to honor its commitment to improve the human rights situation in China as a condition for Beijing being selected as the site for the 2008 Summer Olympic Games;

Whereas the Chinese Government has impeded the access of international journalists to Tibetan areas of China and distorted reports of events surrounding the Tibetan protests, thereby violating the commitment it made that “there will be no restrictions on media reporting and movement of journalists up to and including the Olympic Games”;

Whereas for many years, the Chinese Government has restricted the ability of foreign journalists and foreign government officials, including United States Government officials, to freely travel in Tibetan areas of China, thereby curtailing access to information on the situation in Tibetan areas;

Whereas the Chinese Government’s use of propaganda during the protests to demonize Tibetans and incite ethnic nationalism is exacerbating ethnic tensions and is counterproductive to resolving the situation;

Whereas the United States Department of State included the People’s Republic of China among the group of countries described as “the most systematic violators of human rights” in the introduction of the 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and in previous Human Rights Reports, but did not do so in the 2007 Human Rights Report, despite no evidence of significant improvements in the human rights situation in China in the past year; and

Whereas it is the policy of the United States “to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity” and “to support economic development, cultural preservation, health care, and education and environmental sustainability for Tibetans inside Tibet”, in accordance with the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (22 U.S.C. 6901 note): Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the United States House of Representatives–

(1) calls on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to end its crackdown on nonviolent Tibetan protestors and its continuing cultural, religious, economic, and linguistic repression inside Tibet;

(2) calls on the Chinese Government to begin a results-based dialogue, without preconditions, directly with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to address the legitimate grievances of the Tibetan people and provide for a long-term solution that respects the human rights and dignity of every Tibetan;

(3) calls on the Chinese Government to allow independent international monitors and journalists, free and unfettered access to the Tibet Autonomous Region and all other Tibetan areas of China for the purpose of monitoring and documenting events surrounding the Tibetan protests and to verify that individuals injured receive adequate medical care;

(4) calls on the Chinese Government to immediately release all Tibetans who are imprisoned for nonviolently expressing opposition to Chinese Government policies in Tibet;

(5) calls on the United States Department of State to publicly issue a statement reconsidering its decision not to include the People’s Republic of China among the group of countries described as “the world’s most systematic human rights violators” in the introduction of the 2007 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices; and

(6) calls on the United States Department of State to fully implement the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (22 U.S.C. 6901 note), including the stipulation that the Secretary of State “seek to establish an office in Lhasa, Tibet to monitor political, economic and cultural developments in Tibet”, and also to provide consular protection and citizen services in emergencies, and further urges that the agreement to permit China to open further diplomatic missions in the United States should be contingent upon the establishment of a United States Government office in Lhasa.

 

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