WASHINGTON DC: On Wednesday this week.The US Congressional Subcommittee on Asia and Pacific held a two-hour long hearing on the US government’s Tibet policy and discussed the urgent situation prevailing inside Tibet under China
During the hearing, members of the Committee and the witnesses gave testimonials calling for substantive action to resolve the Tibet issue, the growing political and economic clout of the Chinese government, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the succession issue, the geopolitical importance of Tibet to the PRC and the rest of Asia, among others.
Witnesses who gave testimony at the hearing include Carl Gershman, President of the National Endowment for Democracy, Richard Gere, Chairman of ICT board, and Tenzin Tethong, Director of the Tibetan Service of Radio Free Asia.
The hearing also discussed the Reciprocal Access to Tibet bill introduced by Representative Jim McGovern, which calls for access to Tibetan areas of China for U.S. officials, journalists, and average citizen. The bill also calls for restricting access to America for those Chinese officials responsible for blocking travel to Tibet.
Opening the hearing, Representative Ted Yoho, Chair of the Subcommittee said: “Human rights and personal freedoms in Tibet are already in a poor and worsening state. According to the State Department’s 2016 human rights report, the government of China engages in the severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage by among other means, strictly curtailing the civil rights of the Tibetan population.”
Brad Sherman, Ranking member of the Subcommittee, spoke about the intensified repression in Tibet over the last decade and said Tibet supporters must “move beyond words to concrete actions.”
Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen expressed strong concerns about the US Government’s Tibet policy and said that Tibet has been pushed to the periphery of US foreign policy. She said said that Americans “must stand strong in our commitment to the people of Tibet.”
Richard Gere highlighted the dire political and human rights situation prevailing inside Tibet and spoke about the recent self-immolation of Tenga, a well respected monk in eastern Tibet’s Kardze region. He contrasted the deepening levels of repression implemented by Chinese authorities in Tibet with the peaceful and non-violent path adopted by Tibetans in their struggle for freedom.
Richard Gere also expressed support for the Tibetan people’s calls for genuine autonomy, and explained that China’s accountability on conforming to international law must grow as the country takes a larger role on the world stage.
As the Director of Radio Free Asia’s Tibetan service, Tenzin Tethong described the difficulties he faced about covering the situation inside Tibet. “On any given day, people in Tibet may wake up without access to the Internet and unable to make a phone call because authorities have shut down all communications. And entire families may be taken into custody under suspicion that one individual, or a close relative, has communicated with foreign media or NGOs.”
Carl Gershman urged the US government to shine a spotlight on Tibet during US-China bilateral discussions and expressed reservations about China’s rise in the current world order.
Matteo Mecacci, President of the International Campaign for Tibet, expressed gratitude to the bipartisan support that Tibet enjoys in the US Congress. He urged the US administration to effectively implement the recommendations made by the Subcommittee today in view of the urgent situation prevailing inside Tibet at the moment.
He said that Chinese leaders must understand that the international community will not abandon the Tibetan people, and that their human rights violations must stop.