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Tibet Statement

February 8, 2012

I stand in solidarity with all of the friends of Tibet who today have gathered in Washington, D.C. and in cities around the globe to testify to the deepening crisis in Tibet and find common cause with the suffering people of Tibet.

You are rightly holding vigil outside of the Chinese embassy for it is the Chinese government’s brutal and repressive policies which are the source of this human rights crisis.

The free world has been horrified by the string of self-immolations of Tibetans over the last year, including several monks and nuns.  These peace-loving Tibetans have set themselves aflame in desperation at the abuses suffered by their people at the hands of the Chinese government.

I’ve been to Tibet. I’ve visited Buddhist monks and nuns in Drapchi Prison. I’ve met frightened Tibetans who quietly showed me their forbidden photos of the Dalai Lama.  I am saddened by the recent loss of life but unsurprised that the people of Tibet are crying out for the world to recognize their plight and take action on their behalf.

In recent months, Western reporters trying to visit Tibet have been turned away by security forces.  As many as 11 innocent Tibetans, according to some estimates, were killed when police fired into a crowd of peaceful protestors.  Chinese troops have been moved into the region.  Internet access has been shut down.  According to the Wall Street Journal, “Lest any officials think of going soft, Tibet’s official newspaper warned that leaders who fail to maintain stability would lose their jobs. A ‘thankfulness education’ campaign requires Tibetans to hang the portraits of Chinese leaders in homes.”

The stakes are high in Tibet and the Chinese government knows it. They are tightening their grip on the region.

I have urged U.S. Ambassador Gary Locke to raise the government’s repressive policies in Tibet with senior Chinese party officials and publicly use his platform to make it clear to the Tibetan people that they have a friend in the United States of America.

Furthermore, I call on President Obama, during his visit next week with Chinese Vice President Xi Jinping to publicly voice his strong concern about the current atmosphere in Tibet and the repressive policies of the Chinese government, which are directly impacting the everyday lives of Tibetans.  I also urge the president to continue to push for Lhasa to be the next U.S. consulate in China.

In a Constitution Day speech, President Ronald Reagan famously described our founding documents, which enshrine base liberties, as a “covenant we have made not only with our ourselves, but with all of mankind.”  We risk breaking that covenant with the people of Tibet if we do not champion their cause during this time of need.