Over 100 Tibetan-Americans and Tibet supporters from all across the United States gathered in Washington, D.C. on February 29 and March 1 to raise the awareness of Members of Congress and staffers to the situation in Tibet and to call for stronger US support. The participants met with Members of Congress and staffers reaching more than 120 offices.
They were participating in the 8th Annual Tibet Lobby Day and urged Members of Congress to specifically do the following:
- Cosponsor the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2015 (H.R. 1112) and press for its passage. This bipartisan bill promotes access to Tibetan areas for U.S. officials, journalists, and citizens.
- Advocate for the release of Tibetan political prisoners, highlighting the cases of Khenpo Kartse, Lobsang Kunchok, Thabkhe Gyatso, and Shokjang.
- Support other pending legislation in the House, including The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (H.R. 624), The Tibetan Refugee Assistance Act of 2015 (H.R. 2679), and H. Res. 584 urging the President to seek an independent investigation into the death of Tibetan Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and to publicly call for an end to the repressive policies used by the People’s Republic of China in Tibet.
- Preserve funding for Tibet-related programs, which are small but indispensable investments in Tibetan communities that support the Dalai Lama’s vision of preserving Tibetan identity during these difficult times until a negotiated agreement is reached.
“Having participated in the Tibet Lobby Day for several years, I have come to learn that the Congressional offices become increasingly understanding the more we meet them,” Tenzin Chophel from Vermont told Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan service. He added that on their return to Vermont, they will hold a similar Lobby Day at the state level.
“I had the most knowledgeable experience in my life,” said Tenzin Yangchen, a high school student from Utah, who was a first time participant.
“I could see the benefit from participation by many people in the Tibet Lobby Day,” Kunkie Barshee from Virginia told Voice of America Tibetan service.
“This was a way to wake up our Members of Congress on the issue of Tibet and I feel it important that we continue the work on our return to our state,” Sonam Sangpo from Minnesota told Radio Free Asia.
On the evening of February 29, the International Campaign for Tibet and the Capital Area Tibetan Association hosted a dinner reception to the participants. Gare Smith, former senior foreign policy advisor to Senator Ted Kennedy as well as former Assistant Secretary of State on Human Rights, spoke to the gathering about the significance of lobbying from his own experience at the receiving end. He mentioned his initial contact with ICT staff when he was serving on Capitol Hill and how that has led to his continued interest in Tibet, while serving at the State Department and currently as the Vice Chairman of the Board of the International Campaign for Tibet.
ICT President Matteo Mecacci outlined the priorities of our advocacy work both nationally and internationally, at a Lobby Day training held on February 28 led by ICT Director of Advocacy Andrea Worden.
In addition to the people gathered in D.C. many more participated in the virtual lobbying action that was set up online. There, people from all the 50 states as well as Puerto Rico sent messages to the members of Congress on Tibet.
One early success of the 8th Annual Tibet Lobby Day is the co-sponsorship of a letter to Secretary of State Kerry by Rep. Michael Capuano and Rep. Chris Smith urging him to call on the Chinese government to release several Tibetan political prisoners mentioned above. Signatures of other Members of Congress for the sign-on letter are being collected now.
Significantly, on the same days the Australian Tibet Council, which has a partnership agreement with ICT, convened the Tibet Advocacy Day in Canberra, where a delegation of former political prisoners from Tibet and Australian supporters met with around 30 politicians from all political parties.
The Annual Tibet Lobby Day is a collaboration of US Tibet support groups and Tibetan Associations in the United States.