Tom LantosOn February 4, 2016, the Co-Chairs of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission (TLHRC), Congressmen Jim McGovern (D-MA) and Joseph Pitts (R-PA) issued a press release to announce that they “wrote a letter to the Chinese Government to express their deep concern regarding the prosecution and labeling as “criminals” of relatives and friends of self-immolators, and potentially entire communities in which the self-immolators lived.”

Since 2009, 143 Tibetans have self-immolated inside Tibet and most of them have died as a result of this tragic act of protest. Most of the self-immolators have called for an end to the repressive policies implemented by the Chinese Government in Tibet and have called for the return of the Dalai Lama.

In the letter, addressed to the Chinese Ambassador in Washington DC, Congressmen McGovern and Pitts requested information about the number, names and whereabouts of Tibetan people who have been detained, convicted or whose fate is not known as a result of their alleged affiliation to a self-immolation, and that the International Red Cross be allowed to visit those who are still in prison or in custody. The Co-Chairs of the TLHRC also urged the government to reverse the policy of criminalization and nullify the resulting convictions.

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, said, “With this letter, the leaders of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, Representatives Jim McGovern and Joe Pitts, are addressing a cruel and absurd form of persecution inflicted by the PRC government against the Tibetan people. By criminalizing and convicting relatives and friends of self- immolators who have sacrificed their lives in their quest to exercise their fundamental human rights, the Chinese Government has reached a new low in its mistreatment of Tibetans. Members of the US Congress continue to consistently express their concern for the welfare of the Tibetan people and the Chinese Government should take these concerns seriously.”

Below is a copy of the letter (download):
Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission