March 13, 2007
In a world marred daily by deadly violence, the patient and peaceful struggle of Tibetans for their religious and cultural freedom is a powerful source of inspiration. Despite continued, brutal oppression by Beijing, the Tibetan people and their leaders in exile maintain a heroic commitment to non-violence and dialogue in their fight for fundamental human rights, rights which are the birthright of all human beings.
No one epitomizes the wisdom and power of peace more than my friend, His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Two decades ago, when His Holiness presented his Five Point Peace Plan for Tibet to the Human Rights Caucus that I had the privilege of founding, no other U.S. government body would give him an audience. Twenty years later, his characteristically quiet plea on behalf of his people is heard loud and clear by the President of the United States and government leaders around the globe.
I am proud that Congress will again take the lead in recognizing His Holiness and the ongoing plight of Tibetans, when it presents to him the Congressional Gold Medal in October of this year. The Dalai Lama will join the ranks of other great peace-makers who have received this award, including Pope John Paul II; Elie Wiesel, the conscience of the Holocaust; Nelson Mandela, the hero who conquered Apartheid, and Mother Theresa.
The Dalai Lama has sacrificed greatly in his pursuit of Tibetan freedom. Forced to flee his homeland, he has spent most of his life serving the cause of his people in exile. Yet, his dedication to peace and dialogue remains unwavering.
Through the Sino-Tibetan dialogue, the Dalai Lama has pursued a negotiated solution to the Tibetan issue with the Chinese government. One of our distinguished witnesses today, my friend Lodi Gyari, is the Special Envoy to the talks. I welcome you to the Committee, Lodi, and look forward to hearing your testimony on the status of these important talks.
In five rounds of discussions, His Holiness has made it clear to the Chinese government that, despite their claims to the contrary, he does not seek Tibetan independence, but only genuine autonomy in Tibet's cultural, religious and economic affairs within the context of Chinese sovereignty. Instead of embracing the Dalai Lama's overture for peace, Beijing has resolutely refused to make any concessions to the Tibetans in the five years of the talks. It takes two the tango, and the Tibetans have been dancing alone.
Meanwhile, the human rights situation in Tibet has declined precipitously. The Tibet section of the just-released State Department human rights report states that in 2006 Chinese 'authorities continued to commit serious human rights abuses, including torture, arbitrary arrest and detention, house arrest and surveillance of dissidents, and arbitrary restrictions on free movement.'
It is important to continue to draw attention to this matter, lest the world forget. I am pleased that my dear friend, the distinguished and world-renowned actor Mr. Richard Gere ' a longtime friend to Tibetans and a tireless supporter of Tibetan human rights ' is here to give our Committee his views on the current human rights situation in Tibet.
Beijing must understand that the stalemate in the Tibetan talks is not in China's own interests. With each day that the Chinese government refuses to enter into serious dialogue over the issue of Tibet and fails to take tangible steps to provide true autonomy to the Tibetan people within the borders of the People's Republic of China, the stain on the moral authority of China grows broader and deeper.
China's remarkable economic development over the last three decades has brought material betterment to millions within the People's Republic of China, and it thrust China onto the global stage as an emerging world power. But Beijing must understand that it will take more than spaceships and skyscrapers for the international community to recognize it as a global leader worthy of great power status.
China must meet the good faith efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and his envoys with good faith of its own. China states that it is a country dedicated to peace as it develops and strengthens. Proof of its 'peaceful rise' must first come from within its own borders.
Our own government, the U.S. government, has a moral responsibility to promote the peaceful resolution of the problem of Tibet on terms that are mutually acceptable to the Tibetan people and to the Chinese government. Through the Tibet Policy Act of 2002, which I had the privilege to author, it is the law of this land that the United States work to preserve the cultural identity of Tibetans.
I look forward to hearing from our distinguished witness, Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Paula Dobriansky, on our government's efforts to encourage and support this critically important dialogue that we hope will one day soon allow His Holiness to return to his Tibet and bring peace to a people who have suffered far too long.
(www.tibet.net is the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.)