Dharamshala: On May 2nd, the House of Representatives drew attention to the deteriorating human rights situation inside Tibet. Representatives Mr. Jim McGovern (Democrat from Massachusetts) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (Republican from Florida) addressed during the General Speeches Period.
They displayed a large portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and expressed their growing concern and support for the aspirations of Tibetans worldwide. The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Bill introduced by Representatives Jim McGovern and Randy Hultgren in the House in April that promotes American citizens access to Tibet was also referred to the session.
The first spokesman was Representative McGovern and he began his speech reminding the Speaker about the Tibetan Policy act that was passed in 2002 by the Congress. The Act incorporated steps to protect the distinct religious, cultural and linguistic identity of Tibet; and to press for improved respect for human rights of the Tibetan people; a dialogue between His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government; immediate and unconditional release of Tibetan prisoners of conscience; establishing a U.S. Consular office in Lhasa; and requesting that the 11th Panchen Lama be allowed to pursue his religious studies without Chinese Government interference.
He expressed his concern about the fact that not much has been done these past 15 years about the act passed by the congress. “Tibetans are still held prisoners in China and the absence of a U.S. Consular Office in Tibet, has made it difficult for the U.S. officials to respond to emergencies, like the 2015 earthquake that entrapped a lot of their citizens in the region.”
McGovern is also troubled regarding the fact that the Chinese government have claimed authority about deciding the next incarnation of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama.
He spoke about his growing concern for the missing Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, whose whereabouts are still unknown to the world. He was abducted by the Chinese and taken captive in 1995 which makes him the world’s longest serving political prisoner.
“Let me be clear, the Chinese government does not have the right or the authority to name the reincarnated religious leaders of Tibet, not the Panchen Lama and not the next Dalai Lama”, he says.
McGovern also said that he constantly receives reports from Tibet regarding the human right abuses and affronts to basic human dignity like the predicament Larung Gar is facing right now. Destruction of buildings and widespread forced eviction of residents of Larung is one many lines that China has crossed till date. He insisted that China has been dodging bullets for far too long and that it must come to a stop.
“Along with a bipartisan group of Members of Congress, I have introduced H.R. 1872, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act”, he mentioned. This bill is based on mutual access and reciprocity. “If China wants its citizens and officials to travel freely in the U.S., Americans must be able to travel freely in China, including Tibet.”
He demanded the Chinese Government to permit Tibetans to travel freely within China and abroad. “Either Tibetans are Chinese citizens or they are not. If they are, they must enjoy the same rights and privileges as other Chinese citizens”, he further added. He also insisted that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama who is a symbol of peace should be allowed to visit his birthplace, if so he desires.
He urged the Chinese Government to respect the human rights and religious freedom of Tibetans in Tibet and the first step would be to grant permission for an independent international investigation into the July 2015 death in custody of the revered lama, Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.
He urged the Trump administration to appoint at the earliest possible a special coordinator that deals with Tibetan issues. “To make progress, we need someone in charge”, he said. He also encouraged the Secretary of State to meet with the President of Central Tibetan Administration Dr. Lobsang Sangay and to help engage other governments to create a group of friends of Tibet. “It is time to pursue a coordinated international action in support of the Tibetan people”, he concluded.
Towards the end, he said that the people who envision freedom in Tibet should take concrete actions and move beyond words. He also requested his colleagues to co-sponsor H.R. 1872, the ‘Reciprocal access to Tibet act’ and to fortify measures to protect all that is unique about Tibet and its people.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen expressed her unhappiness about the fact that His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama has been unable to return to his homeland for over 58 years, and that the Tibetan people are deprived of their basic Human rights and freedom and that the implementation of Chinese government’s policies could wipe out the entire culture of Tibet.
She is also concerned that the issues of Tibet are being forgotten. “Known as the Roof of the World, the Tibetan plateau is a source of many of Asia’s major rivers, making the Chinese regime’s threats to Tibet’s stability a strategically important security issue for the entire region”, she further emphasized.
She took pride in supporting Representative McGovern regarding the appointment of a special coordinator for Tibetan issues in the State Department and co-sponsoring H.R.1872, the Reciprocal access to Tibet act.
She talked about her delightful meeting with Richard Gere, an actor and an activist who helps spread awareness about China’s shadow over Tibet. “It is essential, Mr. Speaker, that we in Congress advocate on behalf of the people of Tibet and join forces to combat the Chinese regime’s increasing aggression”, she says, thus concluding her speech.
This historic move by two representatives showcases a bipartisan U.S. Congressional support for Tibet, calling for tangible action from Trump administration and the world at large and significantly a call for people supporting for freedom in Tibet to “move beyond words” to concrete actions.