Statement of Maria Otero, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs, U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, and Commissioner, Congressional-Executive Commission on China U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs Hearing on Congressional-Executive Commission on China: 2011 Annual Report
Chairman Ros-Lehtinen, Ranking Member Berman, and esteemed members of the Committee, thank you for calling this hearing today on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China’s 2011 Annual Report.
I would like to congratulate Chairman Smith, Cochairman Brown and my fellow members of the Commission on an excellent report. I especially would like to recognize the Commission’s staff for their fine work, expertise and diligence. The work of the Commission, including its published reporting and its Political Prisoner Database, is a tremendous resource, and I am honored to serve as a Commissioner. Political prisoners and human rights advocates cited in the 2011 annual report include rights defender Chen Guangcheng, lawyers Jiang Tianyong and Gao Zhisheng, Nobel laureate Liu Xiaobo, journalist Memetjan Abdulla, bishop Su Zhimin, labor advocate Zhao Dongmin, Tibetan nomad Ronggyal Adrag, monk Choeying Khedrub, former monk Jigme Gyatso, and many others. Shining a light on human rights in China and particularly on conditions in Tibetan areas is always important, and certainly could not be more important than it is at the present time.
As U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, I would like to draw attention to a number of the Commission’s findings on Tibet. Over the last year, Tibetans who peacefully expressed disagreement with government policy faced increased risk of punishment, as the Chinese government continued to criminalize such expression under the guise of “safeguarding social stability.” The Chinese government also substantially increased state infringement of freedom of religion in Tibetan Buddhist monasteries and nunneries. Government security and judicial officials detained and imprisoned Tibetan writers, artists, intellectuals, and cultural advocates who lamented or criticized government policies.
In July, when I participated on the Commission’s panel, “The Dalai Lama: What He Means for Tibetans Today,” I noted my deep concern with the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas of China, and specifically with the abuse and forcible removal of monks from Kirti Monastery and the heavy security presence there. The recent self-immolations of young Tibetans, many of whom have been affiliated with Kirti Monastery, are desperate acts that reflect intense frustration with human rights conditions, including religious freedom, inside China. The Commission has thoroughly documented the policies that many believe have created escalating tensions and a growing sense of isolation and despair among Tibetans. These policies include dramatically expanded government controls on religious life and practice, ongoing “patriotic education” campaigns within monasteries that require monks to denounce the Dalai Lama, increasingly intensive surveillance, arbitrary detentions and disappearances of hundreds of monks, and restrictions on and imprisonment of some families and friends of self-immolators.
The U.S. government repeatedly has 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. Senior State Department officials have consistently and directly raised with the Chinese government the issue of Tibetan self-immolations. We have urged the Chinese government to allow access to Tibetan areas for journalists, diplomats and other observers. We also have asked the Chinese government to resume substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives. When President Obama met with the Dalai Lama at the White House in July, the President stressed that he encourages direct dialogue to resolve long-standing differences and that a dialogue that produces results would be positive for China and Tibetans.
I have had the honor of meeting several times with the Dalai Lama, and I also have had the opportunity to speak with Tibetans who live in China, and in India and Nepal. The U.S. government believes that the Dalai Lama can be a constructive partner for China in dealing with the challenge of resolving continuing tensions in Tibetan areas. The Obama Administration hopes that Chinese leaders will pursue substantive dialogue to resolve remaining differences and provide all Chinese citizens with peace, prosperity, and genuine stability.