The United States House of Representatives today held a debate on the situation in Tibet discussing Resolution 337 “Calling for substantive dialogue, without preconditions, in order to address Tibetan grievances and secure a negotiated agreement for the Tibetan people.” The Resolution was introduced on June 24, 2015 by Congressmen Eliot Engels, Matt Salmon, Jim McGovern and Joe Pitts and had 29 original cosponsors.

Several Members of Congress spoke eloquently on the House floor today about the misguided policies of the Chinese Government in Tibet and called on China to resume dialogue with Tibetans, without preconditions.

Members of Congress Chris Smith (R), Eliot Engel (D), Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Congressman McGovern (D) and Dana Rohabacher (R), all spoke in support of the Resolution, which was agreed without objections.

While initiating the debate Congressman Smith said: “This week, when so many voices around the world are joined in wishing His Holiness, the Dalai Lama, a happy 80th birthday, it is a fitting time to re-commit ourselves to Congress’s longstanding support for the fundamental rights of the people of Tibet, because the situation in Tibet has never been more bleak.

“(..)The Tibetan people want to be free to practice their unique faith, to live by the dictates of the faith, this freedom is also denied them. The Chinese government expanded its efforts last year to transform Tibetan Buddhism into a state-managed institution. They sought to undermine the devotion of the Tibetan people to the Dalai Lama and control the process of selecting Buddhist leaders. The Chinese government wants a Tibetan Buddhism that is attractive to tourists and which allows the Communist Party to manage its affairs.” Congressman Smith continued.

Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi in her remarks on the House floor said: “Madam Speaker, I rise today in support of that resolution, and in celebration of the 80th birthday of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, whose spiritual wisdom and friendship have been uplifting to many Tibetans, Americans and people throughout the world. His Holiness the Dalai Lama is a transcendent figure and presence on the international stage.”

“(…) Again, the situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world. If freedom-loving people do not speak out against oppression in Tibet, then we have lost all moral authority to speak out on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world. If [because] it’s a big country, with whom we have big commercial interests like China, deters us from using our voices in support of human rights, how then can we turn to smaller, less economically significant countries and say: ‘For you, the standard is different.’ So, the Congress must continue to stand with the Tibetan people and stand with His Holiness The Dalai Lama to ensure that Tibetan children are free to learn their language, practice their faith and honor their culture as they live in peace.” Leader Pelosi continued.

Congressman Jim McGovern, who is also Co-Chairman of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission said in his remarks: “We are all here because we care about the fundamental human rights of Tibetans, including the right to worship as they choose and to enjoy and protect their culture. But we may be running out of time to guarantee those rights. As we celebrate the 80th birthday of Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, the Chinese government has recently asserted its right to approve his successor. The very continuation of the ancient line of Tibetan spiritual leadership and reincarnation is in question. Next Tuesday, on July 14th, the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission will hold a hearing on the situation in Tibet with the aim of identifying new, creative ideas to advance the basic human rights of Tibetans and ensure Tibetan autonomy.”

Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet commenting on todays’ debate said: “The resolution approved today by the US House of Representative sends a very important signal both to the Tibetan people and to the Chinese Government: the United States continues to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people for a better future and will continue to denounce the serious human rights violations committed by the Chinese Government in Tibet. This Resolution reflects the growing concern about the worsening of the human rights situation in China and in Tibet; it will be in the Chinese Government’s interest to radically change its policy towards Tibetans and to uphold its international human rights obligations. Legislators and Governments all over the world should take note of this debate and question China’s human rights record in Tibet.”