US Senate sealThe US Senate has passed a bipartisan resolution urging substantive negotiations on Tibet between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama. S. Resolution 643 was introduced by Senators Gordon Smith (R-OR) and Russell Feingold (D-WI). It was approved unanimously by the U.S. Senate on September 17, 2008.

“The message in the Senate’s vigilance and deep concern for the situation in Tibet is clear: the time is now to move from dialogue to results-based negotiations on the future of Tibet,” said Todd Stein, Director of Government Relations at ICT. “By passing S.Res. 643, the Senate gives voice to the expectations of the international community for real progress toward a political solution on Tibet, in contrast to the recent Chinese practice of issuing new demands and pre-conditions.”

The next round of dialogue between the two sides is anticipated in October 2008. The Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and officials of the Chinese government have met twice in China this year: informal talks on May 4 and the seventh round of the dialogue on July 1-2. Special Envoy Lodi Gyari characterized the most recent round as “difficult” and disappointing, and questioned the purpose of continuing the dialogue “in the absence of serious and sincere commitment on [the Chinese] part.” By contrast, Mr. Gyari said of the 2005 dialogue that “it was apparent that both sides had a positive assessment of the ongoing process.”

“ICT commends Senators Smith and Feingold for their leadership and for recognizing the urgent need for earnest negotiations on Tibet,” said Mr. Stein. “ICT continues to urge governments in the United States, Europe and elsewhere to press Beijing, now that the Olympics are past, to consider seriously its own self-interests in negotiating genuine autonomy for Tibetans. We welcome the timely passage of this resolution, as many heads of state, including President Bush, who have been outspoken in their support of the Dalai Lama’s efforts to engage the Chinese, will have occasion to talk with Chinese leaders at the UN General Assembly meeting currently convening in New York.”

The text of the resolution is as follows:

Whereas, on April 25, 2008, China’s official news agency Xinhua expressed the willingness of the Government of China to meet with envoys of the Dalai Lama;

Whereas, on May 4, 2008, Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama Lodi Gyari and Envoy Kelsang Gyaltsen met with Chinese Executive Vice Minister Zhu Weiqun and Executive Vice Minister Sithar for one day of talks, in which the Government of China alleged that the Dalai Lama instigated the March 2008 unrest in autonomous Tibetan areas of China, and was sabotaging the Olympic Games;

Whereas Hu Jintao, General Secretary of the Communist Party of China, released a statement after this meeting saying that his Government of China was committed to a “serious” dialogue with the Dalai Lama;

Whereas, at the United States-European Union (EU) Summit on June 10, 2008, the United States and the European Union issued a joint statement welcoming the decision by the Government of China to hold talks with representatives of the Dalai Lama, and urged “both parties to move forward with a substantive, constructive and results-oriented dialogue at an early date”;

Whereas the Envoys of His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s Kelsang Gyaltsen and Lodi Gyari visited Beijing from June 30 to July 3, 2008, to conduct the seventh round of the Tibetan-Chinese dialogue;

Whereas, during these talks, the Government of China issued a new set of demands, including that the Dalai Lama prove that he does not support Tibetan independence or disruption of the Olympic Games in Beijing;

Whereas the Dalai Lama has stated multiple times he does not favor the independence of Tibet and is instead seeking negotiations to address the legitimate grievances of, and provide genuine autonomy for, the Tibetan people within the People’s Republic of China, and is committed to non-violence;

Whereas the Dalai Lama has repeatedly and publicly declared his support for the Olympic Games in China, as well as his intention to attend the opening ceremony, if invited;

Whereas, at the conclusion of the July round of talks, officials of the Government of China did not accept a proposal by the representatives of the Dalai Lama to agree to a joint statement supporting a continuation of the dialogue process;

Whereas Special Envoy Lodi Gyari said on July 5, 2008, that the talks with the Government of China, called for by the international community, were “disappointing and difficult”;

Whereas, in contrast to the opinion of Special Envoy Lodi Gyari, President George W. Bush said on July 6, 2008, that “it looks like there’s some progress, at least in the talks with the Dalai Lama”;

Whereas officials of the Government of China subsequently stated that the talks with the Dalai Lama’s envoys are only about the Dalai Lama’s personal future, rather than about the future of Tibet;

Whereas the Office of the Dalai Lama on July 17, 2008, restated its position that the talks are about “the future of 6,000,000 Tibetans in Tibet and not His Holiness the Dalai Lama”;

Whereas, on July 11, 2008, the European Parliament adopted a resolution that “welcomes the resumption of contacts, after the events of March 2008 in Lhasa, between the representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese authorities” and “encourages the two parties to intensify these contacts so as to establish the bases for mutual trust, without which it will be impossible to arrive at a mutually acceptable political solution”;

Whereas China’s People’s Armed Police troops have been sent to monasteries in Tibetan areas to give monks “relevant information” about the Olympics, and Chinese authorities have stepped up “patriotic education” campaigns designed to conform the religious practices of Tibetan Buddhists to Communist Party rules, including forcing monks and nuns to denounce the Dalai Lama: Now, therefore, be it

Resolved, That the Senate–

(1) urges the Dalai Lama or his representatives and the Government of the People’s Republic of China to begin earnest negotiations, without preconditions, to provide for a mutually agreeable solution that addresses the legitimate grievances of, and provides genuine autonomy for, the Tibetan people;

(2) urges that the talks in October 2008 between the Government of China and the Dalai Lama should focus on the welfare, cultural, political, and religious autonomy of the Tibetan people, and not on the person of the Dalai Lama;

(3) affirms that the human rights of Tibetans and their right to practice religion free of government regulation is not an internal matter of any one country;

(4) urges the President to take a more personal and engaged interest in the successful conclusion of these negotiations, both unilaterally and in coordination with United States allies; and

(5) calls on the United States Government to press the Government of China–

(A) to respect freedom of speech and freedom of association, as required by international law and as enshrined in the Constitution of China and to release those who have committed no crime other than peaceful protest; and

(B) to end the “patriotic education” campaign against lay and clerical Tibetans and allow Tibetans to practice their religion freely.