Yesterday, Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) introduced legislation calling on the Government of China to suspend religious control regulations, reassess religious and security policies in Tibet, and resume a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, in response to the recent self-immolations and intensifying security crackdown. The resolution, S.Res. 356, is cosponsored by a bipartisan group including Sens. John McCain (R-AZ), Joseph Lieberman (D-CT), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Richard Durbin (D-IL) Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Mark Udall (D-CO) and James Webb (D-VA).
“This resolution sends the strong message that the ongoing repression in Tibet is unacceptable,’ said Todd Stein, Director of Government Relations at the International Campaign for Tibet. “It not only reflects the deep interest the American people have in Tibet, its distinct culture and its people, but also reaffirms the strong policy and programmatic support for Tibet in Congress, and its desire for a durable solution.”
The resolution comes amidst news that at least three Tibetans have been shot dead by Chinese troops over the past week, evidence of an intensifying military and police presence, and a cut off of Internet and telephone communication, in many Tibetan towns and monasteries. Foreign journalists have been blocked from entering Tibetan areas.
The Senate resolution compliments several recent statements by Executive Branch officials, including one on January 24 by Under Secretary of State and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Maria Otero which urged Chinese authorities to reverse “counterproductive polices” in Tibet. Introduction of the legislation also comes two weeks before Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping comes to Washington for meetings at the White House. A State Department spokeswoman has said that Tibet will be on the agenda with Vice President Xi.
Specifically, the resolution also:
- mourns the death of Tibetans who have self-immolated;
- calls for China to allow unrestricted access to Tibet to journalists, foreign diplomats, and international organizations to see the situation for themselves;
- asks for an accounting of Tibetans detained for peacefully protesting, and of monks forcibly removed from Kirti monastery;
- requests the Department of State to continue to seek a U.S. consulate in Lhasa, Tibet, and to not consent to the opening of any Chinese consulate in the U.S. until one in Lhasa is established.
In addition, the resolution acclaims the transition to full democracy in the Tibetan exile community, commending the Dalai Lama for devolving his governmental power to the elected leaders, and congratulates Tibetans living in exile for successfully holding free and fair elections in 2011.
Text of the resolution follows:
SENATE RESOLUTION 356
Expressing support for the people of Tibet.
Whereas Tibet is the center of Tibetan Buddhism, and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, is the most revered figure in Tibetan Buddhism;
Whereas the Government of the People’s Republic of China continues to enforce policies that infringe on fundamental freedoms of Tibetans, including punitive security measures against monasteries, mass arrests, and restrictions on freedom to practice religion;
Whereas both the Dalai Lama and the Kalon Tripa, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the prime minister democratically elected by the Tibetan exile community, have specifically stated that they do not seek independence for Tibet from China;
Whereas, in his inaugural address on August 8, 2011, Kalon Tripa Sangay stated that he will ‘”continue the Middle-Way policy, which seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet within the People’s Republic of China”‘;
Whereas, according to the Department of State’s 2011 Report on Tibet Negotiations, since 2002, nine rounds of talks between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and envoys of the Dalai Lama “‘have not borne concrete results”;
Whereas, despite persistent efforts by the Dalai Lama and his representatives, the Government of the People’s Republic of China and envoys of the Dalai Lama have not held any formal dialogue since January 2010;
Whereas, since March 2011, at least 16 Tibetans have set themselves on fire, and at least 12 have died;
Whereas the repressive policies of the Government of the People’s Republic of China have created an environment of despair, hopelessness, and frustration among many Tibetans;
Whereas, on November 1, 2011, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Religion or Belief, Heiner Bielefeldt, expressed concern over ‘‘restrictive measures’’ implemented by the Government of the People’s Republic of China in Tibetan monasteries, stating that such measures ‘‘not only curtail the right to freedom of religion or belief, but further exacerbate the existing tensions, and are counterproductive’’ and affirming that ‘‘the right of members of the monastic community, and the wider community to freely practice their religion, should be fully respected and guaranteed by the Chinese Government’’;
Whereas, on January 24, 2012, Maria Otero, Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human Rights, and United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, issued a statement expressing concern about ‘‘reports of violence and continuing heightened tensions in Tibetan areas of China, including reports of security forces in Sichuan province opening fire on protesters, killing some and injuring others’’;
Whereas the Constitution of the People’s Republic of China guarantees freedom of religious belief for all citizens, but the July-December 2010 International Religious Freedom Report of the Department of State states that ‘‘the [Chinese] government’s repression of religious freedom remained severe in the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas’’;
Whereas, on March 10, 2011, His Holiness the Dalai Lama announced that he would relinquish his last remaining governmental duties in the Central Tibetan Administration, and would turn over political authority to the leadership democratically elected by Tibetans in exile;
Whereas, on March 20, 2011, the Tibetan government in exile conducted competitive democratic elections that were monitored by international observers and deemed free, fair, and consistent with international standards;
Whereas nearly 50,000 people in over 30 countries, more than half of all the eligible Tibetan exiles voters, participated in the March 20, 2011 elections;
Whereas Dr. Lobsang Sangay was elected Kalon Tripa, or prime minister, of the Central Tibetan Administration after receiving 55 percent of votes in the March 20, 2011, election and was inaugurated on August 8, 2011;
Whereas Kalon Tripa Sangay was selected to study in the United States under the Department of State’s Tibetan Scholarship Program, earning a doctorate in law from Harvard University, and served as a Senior Fellow at the East Asian Legal Studies Program at Harvard Law School;
Whereas Kalon Tripa Sangay, while at Harvard University, promoted dialogue among Tibetan exiles and Chinese students and visiting Chinese scholars to enhance mutual understanding and advance the prospects for reconciliation; and
Whereas it is the objective of the United States Government, consistent across administrations of different political parties and as articulated in the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (subtitle B of title VI of Public Law 107–228; 22 U.S.C. 6901 note) to promote a substantive dialogue between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives in order to secure genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within China:
Now, therefore, be it Resolved, That the Senate—
(1) mourns the death of Tibetans who have self-immolated and deplores the repressive policies targeting Tibetans;
(2) calls on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to suspend implementation of religious control regulations, reassess religious and security policies implemented since 2008 in Tibet, and resume a dialogue with Tibetan Buddhist leaders, including the Dalai Lama or his representatives, to resolve underlying grievances;
(3) calls on the Government of the People’s Republic of China to release all persons that have been arbitrarily detained; to cease the intimidation, harassment and detention of peaceful protestors; and to allow unrestricted access to journalists, foreign diplomats, and international organizations to Tibet;
(4) calls on the Secretary of State to seek from the Government of the People’s Republic of China a full accounting of the forcible removal of monks from Kirti Monastery, including an explanation of the pretext or conditions under which monks were removed and their current whereabouts;
(5) commends His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his decision to devolve his political power in favor of a democratic system;
(6) congratulates Tibetans living in exile for holding, on March 20, 2011, a competitive, multi-candidate election that was free, fair, and met international electoral standards;
(7) reaffirms the unwavering friendship between the people of the United States and the people of Tibet; and
(A) calls on the Department of State to fully implement the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (subtitle B of title VI of Public Law 107–228; 22 U.S.C. 6901 note), including the stipulation that the Secretary of State seek ‘‘to establish an office in Lhasa, Tibet, to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet’’, and also to provide consular protection and citizen services in emergencies; and
(B) urges that the agreement to permit China to open further diplomatic missions in the United States should be contingent upon the establishment of a United States Government consulate in Lhasa, Tibet