- Tibetan prime minister (Kalon Tripa) Lobsang Sangay asks the United States to help resettle Tibetan refugees
- Kirti Rinpoche testifies to the tragic self-immolations at Kirti Monastery
- Bhuchung Tsering urges Congress to update the Tibetan Policy Act to recognize Tibetan democratic governance
As news broke that a 12th Tibetan had self immolated in protest against Chinese policies, Tibet was the focus of two hearings in the U.S. House, highlighted by the first appearance before Congress by Lobsang Sangay as the Tibetan prime minister (Kalon Tripa).
Kalon Tripa Sangay testified to the Central Tibetan Administration’s response to the recent trend of self-immolations in eastern Tibet. He asked the U.S. government to call on China to suspend “counterproductive policies and aggressive ‘patriotic education’ programs,” demand access to the areas that have seen self-immolations by journalists, diplomats and UN officials, and resume its dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama. He spoke to a Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission hearing specifically on the Tibet issue.
Kirti Rinpoche, the spiritual leader of the monastery where most of the self-immolations have occurred, came to Washington specifically to report to Congress on Chinese restrictions on religious practice that provide the context for the self-immolations. He testified to the Lantos Commission that in March 2008, “Kirti Monastery was surrounded by the Chinese forces and was cut off from the outside world, turning it into a virtual prison.” He said “[t]he Tibetan youth are setting themselves on fire is proof of the sufferings of the Tibetan people,” and asked the United States to “to pressure China to allow independent international delegates and the media to visit Ngaba and other Tibetan areas.”
Dr. Sangay briefed Congress on the achievements of democratic government in the Tibetan exile community following the Dalai Lama’s decision to relinquish his political role. He spoke to the priorities of his administration to revitalize Tibetan settlements, including its focus on improving education. To support the Dalai Lama’s vision of a vibrant diaspora to sustain the Tibetan cause, Dr. Sangay asked Congress to pass the Tibetan immigration bill (H.R. 699) and to urge the Administration to resettle Tibetan refugees in South Asia.
Bhucheng K. Tsering, Vice President for Special Programs at the International Campaign for Tibet, offered recommendations for U.S. policy when he testified before the House Committee of Foreign Affairs in its review of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s (CECC) 2011 Annual Report. Mr. Tsering called on Congress to:
- Update and strengthen the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 to take into account new developments in Tibetan politics, including the democratization in the Central Tibetan Administration and the Dalai Lama’s statement on his successor;
- Promote the Tibetan-Chinese dialogue; and
- Consider restrictions on Chinese delegations from or about Tibet while the Chinese authorities are limiting access to Tibet.
Kalon Tripa Lobsang Sangay stated that the “late Tom Lantos has a special place in the hearts of the Tibetan people.” He recalled Representative Lantos’ effort in 1987 to give His Holiness the Dalai Lama his first audience before a parliamentary body, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, the Lantos Commission’s predecessor. Its Co-Chairmen Reps. James McGovern (D-MA) and Frank Wolf (R-VA), and member Rep. Joe Pitts (R-PA) expressed support for the Tibetan cause and offered assistance with Dr. Sangay’s recommendations.
The U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Under Secretary of State Maria Otero, submitted written testimony to the Foreign Affairs Committee regarding the CECC report. She urged the Chinese government “to address its counterproductive policies in Tibetan areas that have created tensions and that threaten the unique religious, cultural and linguistic identity of the Tibetan people”, “allow access to Tibetan areas for journalists, diplomats and other observers,” and “resume substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives.”
Kalon Tripa’s Congressional testimony comes during a week he has spent in Washington meeting with Members of Congress, including Senators John McCain, Joe Lieberman, Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy and Marco Rubio, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and numerous other Representatives, journalists and policy experts.