On May 9, U.S. Senators Barbara Boxer (D-CA), Joe Biden (D-DE), Olympia Snowe (R-ME) and John Kerry (D-MA) wrote to President Bush asking the Administration to take a number of concrete steps to addresses the ongoing crisis in Tibet. The letter is a follow-up to a April 23 Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on Tibet chaired by Sen. Boxer, in which she and other senators called for an action plan on Tibet, and which featured Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama Lodi Gyari and ICT Chairman Richard Gere.

Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte, who testified at the April 23 hearing, will appear before the full Senate Foreign Relations Committee (chaired by Sen. Biden) on May 15, and is expected to field questions about the situation in Tibet and the progress of an action plan.

May 9, 2008

The President
The White House
Washington, DC

Dear President Bush:

We write today to thank you for your efforts on Tibet and to respectfully urge you to take additional steps to help promote genuine reconciliation between Tibetans and the Government of the People’s Republic of China. We welcome the resumption of dialogue between representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Government of China, but we also recognize that even this modest step would not have occurred without coordinated international pressure. Therefore, we believe we should redouble our efforts to encourage Beijing to reevaluate its entire approach to Tibet and adopt policies that respect the universal human rights of the Tibetan people.

The unrest that the world witnessed in March, 2008, has its origins in the widespread belief among many Tibetans that the Chinese government is waging a systemic campaign to chip away at Tibetan life, culture, and identity. While some Chinese officials appear to believe that the views of the Tibetan people can simply be silenced and suppressed, the reality is that failure to address the root cause of the recent crisis will only lay the groundwork for future unrest. Ultimately, an agreement must be reached that gives the Tibetan people genuine autonomy and is embraced by both the Tibetan and the Chinese people. To that end, the United States must show leadership and exert pressure for meaningful progress.

First and foremost, we ask that you make preparations to visit the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) or other Tibetan areas when you travel to China this summer for the Olympic Games. This would allow you to demonstrate support for American athletes as you also send a strong message of respect for the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people. The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) has stated that visiting Tibet would serve as “an affirmation of the U.S. commitment to religious freedom for Tibetans, as well as for China’s other growing religious communities.” We wholeheartedly agree.

We also ask that you work urgently with the Chinese government to establish a consulate in Lhasa, and that you make its establishment the top priority in negotiations to expand the U.S. diplomatic presence in China. This would fulfill the intent of the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 which states that the Secretary of State “should make best efforts to establish an office in Lhasa, Tibet, to monitor political, economic, and cultural developments in Tibet.” Presently, our nearest consulate is in Chengdu, which is more than 750 miles from Lhasa. During a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on East Asian and Pacific Affairs on April 23, Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte testified that Lhasa, while on a list of Chinese cities where the United States would like to have a consulate, is not at the top of that list. However, he said that “in today’s context, and given the events that have happened,” the Department of State would promptly establish such an office if the Chinese granted approval.

In addition, we ask that you work vigorously with the Chinese government to restore media access to the TAR and the surrounding region. Immediately following the outbreak of rioting on March 10, 2008, the Chinese government expelled all foreign journalists from the region—a move that many believe violates the commitment that China made in seeking the Olympics to ensure unfettered access for the press throughout China.

We also ask that you work with the Chinese government to support greater access to Tibet for international officials, including representatives from the United Nations. The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Louise Arbour, was reportedly denied access to Tibet after she made a request to visit last month. It is vitally important that officials such as Commissioner Arbour and other diplomats be granted access in order to ensure that the world has an accurate picture of the events that have transpired to date and to advance protection of the fundamental human rights of both Chinese and Tibetans in the region. This should include access for international observers to the trials that are currently taking place in Lhasa. It is equally important that non-governmental organizations be granted access to the region in order to provide necessary goods, services, and care. In particular, this should include protections and assistance for displaced persons and refugees. It would be in our interest to work with our European allies and regional partners to achieve these goals.

And finally, we ask that you take steps to adequately fund Tibetan language broadcasting by Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. As you know, RFA and VOA are two of the limited number of uncensored information sources available to many Tibetans.

We thank you in advance for your consideration of this proposed action plan for Tibet and stand ready to provide all necessary support. As Americans, we must always support those seeking to live free from oppression. We view this as an opportunity to advance this cause, and we hope that you view it in the same light.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

Joseph R. Biden, Jr.
United States Senator

Olympia Snowe
United States Senator

John F. Kerry
United States Senator