House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi has said that the survival of the Tibetan identity is an issue of urgent U.S. and international concern and therefore self-determination for Tibetans must be a priority in the US-China relationship. Pelosi was speaking in the U.S. House of Representatives on September 10, 2003 in support of House Resolution. 359, Welcoming His Holiness the Fourteenth Dalai Lama.

The House resolution, introduced by Rep Steve Rothman with 10 other co-sponsors (including Pelosi) passed unanimously on September 10, 2003. The resolution said the Dalai Lama should be recognized and congratulated for his consistent efforts to promote dialogue to peacefully resolve the Tibet issue.

Given below is the full text of Pelosi’s statement.

Pelosi Statement Welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Wednesday, September 10, 2003

“Thank you very much, Mr. Speaker. I thank you for yielding as much time as I may consume so that I can join in praising Mr. (Steven) Rothman for bringing this important resolution to the floor and for his leadership on the foreign operations committee where he works closely with Congressman (Mark) Kirk.

“I commend him also for making the issue of Tibet a priority. He learned at the knee of John Porter, who has worked with Tom Lantos. And I want to congratulate Congressman Lantos, the Ranking Democrat on the International Relations Committee. He and John Porter, as has been acknowledged, founded the Human Rights Caucus twenty years ago. We observed that yesterday and it was an absolutely fitting and appropriate that His Holiness was the special guest speaker yesterday. What an honor it was for all of us. It brought luster to the Congress, and it was again a fitting tribute to the work of the human rights caucus. Thank you, Tom Lantos, for your extraordinary leadership.

“When I first came to the Congress in 1987, I was invited by Mr. Lantos to a meeting with his Holiness the Dalai Lama. I was absolutely overwhelmed to receive such an invitation. Here I was, brand new, only a matter of months in Congress, and he and John Porter were hosting the meeting — as you said in a small room at that time — at which His Holiness put forth his five points of autonomy not independence, of non violence, of protecting the environment, and stopping the resettlement. A very shall we say peaceful approach to resolution of the conflict that could have been.

“The Chinese regime did not see it that way. They kept saying: ‘Oh, they say autonomy they mean independence and until they reject independence we can’t have a conversation.’ And so these many years have gone by without a resolution.

“That’s why I’m pleased to rise in strong support of H.R. 359, Welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and recognizing his commitment to non-violence, human rights, freedom, and democracy. I’m proud to be an original co-sponsor of Mr. Rothman’s resolution, and again commend him for bringing this to the floor. Tom Lantos has a lifetime commitment to human rights, and in his position as Co-Chair and Ranking Member he has spoken out for hundreds of thousands of victims of religious, ethnic, and political oppression all over the world.

“In 40 years in exile, His Holiness has used his position and leadership to promote wisdom, compassion, and non violence as the solution not only to the present crisis in Tibet but also to other longstanding conflicts around the the world.

“We must heed the guidance of his Holiness. He is a constant reminder that the crisis in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. We have not forgotten the people of Tibet in their struggle. We must and will continue our efforts to improve their lives.

“Self-determination for Tibetans must be a priority in the U.S.-China relationship.

“We know that more than a million Tibetans have died under the Chinese occupation as a result of torture, starvation, and execution. More than 6,000 monasteries and irreplaceable jewels of Tibetan culture have been destroyed. Tibetans are routinely imprisoned and tortured for non-violently expressing their views. Freedom of religion is severely curtailed. China is encouraging the large-scale settlement of non-Tibetans into Tibet, which is overwhelming the Tibetan population in many areas and threatening its very culture.

“And the U.S. Government knows the facts. In March 2003, the U.S. State Department issued its annual Country Report on Human Rights. The report documents continuing human rights abuses by the Chinese government in Tibet, and states, and know this is March 2003 Mr. Speaker: “[Chinese] authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including instances of torture, arbitrary arrest, detention without public trial, and lengthy detention of Tibetan nationalists for peacefully expressing their political or religious views.” “The survival of the Tibetan identity is an issue of urgent U.S. and international concern. That concern will not diminish until a negotiated solution is achieved and the rights of the Tibetan people are respected.

“This is an important time for the Tibetan people. Tibetans urge the world to support the Dalai Lama’s proposal for the restoration of peace and human rights in Tibet. There is some reason for optimism as has been mentioned. Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama have traveled to China and Tibet twice in the past year to continue discussions with Chinese authorities on a permanent negotiated settlement.

“But unless the United States and other countries of the world are committed to meeting that challenge I mentioned that Tibet poses to the conscience of the world, then we cannot be consistent when we talk about human rights in any other place in the world.

“How can we talk about violations of human rights and drastic actions we want to take in response to them in one place and totally ignore them in Tibet? It undermines our moral authority to talk about human rights anyplace in the world unless we also about them in Tibet and China, I might add.

“Today we recognize the Dalai Lama for his efforts to peacefully resolve the Tibetan issue and to promote the human rights of the Tibetan people. I talked in the beginning of my remarks of when I first met His Holiness as a new Member of Congress sixteen years ago. I remember a number of years later when Mr. Lantos and Mr. Porter, and Senator Senator George Mitchell, and Senator Dole then the Republican and Democrat leaders of the U.S. Senate. We all joined together and we had a speech by His Holiness in the Rotunda of the Capitol. It was really a momentous occasion. And we had moved from quite a very small room into the center of the Capitol of the United States. At that time, His Holiness told us about what was going on in Tibet, but he also was hopeful and optimistic about what could be in the future.

“I remember a personal story he told us that when he was a little boy he visited the United States. This was before he escaped from Tibet, before the Chinese came in. But he came to the United States on a visit, and President Franklin Roosevelt gave him a watch. And he talked about that watch. It had like the setting of the sun; it was one of those watches that showed that it was daytime with the sun coming up or going down and what that meant to him.

“So he has had a connection to our country since he was a child. His presence in the United States anytime is a blessing for all of us.

“It is appropriate that we honor and welcome him as Mr. Rothman has done so magnificently with this resolution. I urge my colleagues to unanimously support it.

“Thank you, Mr. Speaker, I yield back the balance of my time.”