His Holiness met with members of the House of Representatives and the Senate, including the congressional leadership (Hastert (R-IL), Pelosi (D-CA), and Reid (D-NV) on the final day of his high-profile ten-day visit to Washington, DC. His Holiness also met with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, including its chairman Richard Lugar (R-IN) and ranking member Joseph Biden (D-DE), and the House International Relations Committee, including its chairman Henry Hyde (R-IL) and ranking member Tom Lantos (D-CA).

Following the Senate Foreign relations meeting, Senator Barack Obama (D-IL) was quoted by AFP as saying: “Obviously we are all concerned about the human rights situation in Tibet and hopefully while the President is there in China, this will be an issue he brings up.”

“Congressional support continues to be strong and bipartisan, and in every meeting members of Congress asked how they might continue to help His Holiness in his efforts,” said Mary Beth Markey, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet, who attended all the meetings. “The message from every committee and individual to the Dalai Lama was ‘we stand by you, you are an inspiration to the world’.”

During the day of meetings, members of Congress discussed with the Dalai Lama issues relating to democracy in China, and how to create a more open China. Some members expressed concern that economic change had not so far led to political change in China, and in particular had not led to an improvement in the situation in Tibet. “They wanted to know direct from the Dalai Lama the status of negotiations with Beijing over Tibet’s future,” said Mary Beth Markey. “His Holiness was also asked about the influx of Chinese into Tibetan areas, and for an update on political prisoners, including the young Panchen Lama taken into custody by the Chinese in 1995.”

Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) informed His Holiness that she and Senator Craig Thomas (R-WY) are introducing a resolution on awarding the Congressional Medal of Freedom to His Holiness.

President George W. Bush assured the Dalai Lama during their meeting last week at the White House that the Tibetan issue would be raised during his meeting with Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on November 19 in order to encourage more substantive negotiations between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and Chinese officials.