Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, House Democratic Whip, said on October 26 that the recent releases of Tibetan political prisoners and the visit of the Dalai Lama’s envoys to Beijing are cause for cautious hope for the Tibetan people.
In a statement at the Bay Area Friends of Tibet’s 17th annual Tibet Day in San Francisco, Pelosi also cautioned that it would be wrong to be too optimistic at this stage, as this is not the first time that China has hinted that it might relent on the Tibet issue.
Pelosi said the plight of the Tibetan people is a challenge to the global conscience and that she will continue to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to preserve their heritage and regain their freedom.
She said it was due to continued pressure from the Congress and from concerned citizens that President Bush raised the issue of Tibet with President Jiang Zemin in their meeting on October 25. Pelosi said that she hoped President Bush would make self-determination for Tibetans a priority in the U.S.-China relationship.
Following is the full text of Pelosi’s statement, which was read by her Deputy District Director, Dan Bernal:
“Greetings to everyone gathered today in San Francisco to commemorate the 17th Annual Tibet Day. I thank Bay Area Friends of Tibet, the Tibetan Association of Northern California, and the many other local Tibetan organizations for organizing this wonderful celebration of Tibetan culture.
“I am deeply concerned about the Chinese government’s continued repression of the Tibetan people. In February, the U.S. State Department issued its Annual Country Report on Human Rights documenting continued human rights abuses by the Chinese government in Tibet and states. These included ‘instances of torture, arbitrary arrest, detention without public trial, and lengthy detention of Tibetan nationalists for peacefully expressing their political or religious views.’
“This is a moment of cautious hope for the Tibetan people, who have been so brutally oppressed for so long. China’s recent gestures appear to signal that China’s leaders are adopting a more flexible stance toward Tibet. I am thrilled that a number of Tibetan detainees have been released by the Chinese government. I am also pleased that senior representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama publicly traveled to China for the first time since 1984.
“However, this is not the first time that we have seen hints that China will relent, and it would be wrong to be too optimistic. We do not, for example, expect any change in Beijing’s demand that the Dalai Lama relinquish claims to Tibetan regions in other Chinese provinces. In addition, human rights groups have confirmed, by name, over 700 Tibetan political prisoners in Tibet, although there are likely to be hundreds more whose names are not confirmed. Many are detained without charge or trial for up to four years through ‘re-education through labor.’
“I am proud to have joined the International Relations Committee Ranking Member Tom Lantos (D-CA) in introducing the Tibetan Policy Act of 2001 (H.R. 1779). This comprehensive legislation is designed to promote a meaningful dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government, provide economic support for the Tibetan people both in Tibet and in exile, and ensure that international financial institutions only support projects in Tibet which are planned and executed with the support of the Tibetans. It also sets forth provisions with respect to the release of, and access by humanitarian organizations to, Tibetan prisoners detained in China because of their political or religious beliefs.
“The plight of the people of Tibet is a challenge to the global conscience. Because of our unique position in the world, the U.S. has a special opportunity and responsibility to promote the values of liberty, equality, and human rights that we hold dear. If the U.S. government is serious about helping the Tibetan people, it must promote negotiations between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the government of China.
“Yesterday, with continued pressure from the Congress and from concerned citizens like you, President Bush raised the issue of respecting human rights in Tibet with President Jiang Zemin of China. Any contact, any chance for diplomacy, any face-to-face meeting, is a step forward, and I hope President Bush will make self-determination for Tibetans a priority in the U.S.-China relationship.
“Thank you for your continued activism for the people of Tibet. Your actions, words and prayers will move mountains. Please be assured I will continue to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to preserve their heritage and regain their freedom.”