As the Bush Administration – including the President, Secretary of State, and newly named Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues – holds its first meetings with the Dalai Lama, the International Campaign for Tibet calls for a reinvigoration of U.S. efforts to assist the people of Tibet, who have endured more than 50 years of Chinese occupation.

“The Bush Administration needs to take a strong stance on Tibet and formulate a proactive approach to promoting dialogue between the Chinese leadership and the Dalai Lama,” said John Ackerly, ICT President.

“China is aggressively portraying international concern for Tibet as a means of weakening China. The challenge for the Bush Administration is to show this it not the case,” Mr. Ackerly said.

Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy to the Dalai Lama, described the first meeting between the Dalai Lama and Secretary Powell as “most fruitful,” adding that the Dalai Lama was “very pleased with the meeting.”

Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and the newly appointed Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Under Secretary of State Paula Dobiransky, as well as James Kelly, Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs, were present for the meeting.

President Bush will meet with the Dalai Lama on May 23, the 50th anniversary of the “17-Point Agreement,” which dictated the terms of Tibet’s integration within China and included significant guarantees of Tibetan autonomy. China has launched a nation-wide propaganda campaign to celebrate the anniversary.

The Tibetans acceded to the terms of “17-Point Agreement” after threats of escalating military aggression. China’s violations of the agreement, in particular its implementation of communist reforms, caused instability especially in eastern Tibet and, ultimately, the 1959 popular revolt that led to the flight into exile of the Dalai Lama and 80,000 Tibetans. The Dalai Lama officially repudiated the “17-Point Agreement” during his flight into exile.

On this important anniversary, the Dalai Lama is expected to discuss with the Bush Administration his own proposal for a genuinely autonomous Tibet and to request its assistance in achieving meaningful dialogue with China’s leaders. President Bush is expected to meet Chinese President Jiang Zemin in Shanghai for the APEC summit in late October and to visit Beijing.

ICT also calls on the Bush Administration to take action in strong opposition to China’s deplorable record of human rights abuse against Tibetans both bilaterally and in international fora.

Yesterday, the U.S. and 45 other countries successfully opposed a challenge by China to ICT’s accreditation to the UN World Conference Against Racism. The final vote tally in Geneva was 46-37, with 34 countries abstaining.

ICT specifically recommends that the Bush Administration:

Welcome the Dalai Lama appropriately, which should include a White House Oval Office meeting;
Urge China for concrete progress towards dialogue in advance of President Bush’s visit to China later this year.
Support passage of the “Tibetan Policy Act of 2001,” designed to safeguard the Tibetan identity and promote a negotiated solution for Tibet.
Authorize the Congressional-Executive Commission on China to travel to Tibet in advance of President Bush’s visit to China later this year with a view towards posting commission staff in Lhasa.
Urge China to accept a visit to Tibet by the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture (an earlier agreement to visit China broke down, in part, because of lack of access provided to Tibet.)
In the absence of human rights progress, take strong measures to censure China including in international fora.