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McGovern: America Must Stand Up for Human Rights in Tibet

McGovern Calls for New U.S. Policy to Hold China Accountable

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Washington, May 2, 2017 | comments
“We need to rethink U.S. policy toward Tibet. For years, China has faced no consequences for its failure to respect the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people."
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WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today U.S. Congressman Jim McGovern (D-MA), a senior House Democrat and Co-Chair of the bipartisan Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, delivered a speech on the House floor calling for a new U.S. policy toward Tibet to safeguard the distinct identity of the Tibetan people and hold China accountable for human rights abuses. Click Here for Video of Today’s Speech

In today’s speech, Congressman McGovern called for Congress to pass H.R. 1872, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, a bipartisan bill he introduced in April in the House with Congressman Randy Hultgren (R-IL). A companion bill was introduced in the Senate by Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Tammy Baldwin (D-WI). The bill promotes access to Tibetan areas by authorizing the U.S. government to deny Chinese government officials access to the United States if they are responsible for creating or implementing restrictions on the travel of American government officials, journalists, and tourists in Tibet.

Congressman McGovern said: “We need to rethink U.S. policy toward Tibet. For years, China has faced no consequences for its failure to respect the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people. I constantly receive reports from Tibet of human rights abuses and affronts to basic human dignity. This must change. 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.”



Congressman McGovern laid out a clear policy agenda for what the United States and China must do to strengthen human rights in Tibet.

Policy Changes China Must Enact:

• Remove the obstacles to freedom of movement for Tibetans within China and abroad. China can’t have it both ways. Either Tibetans are Chinese citizens or they’re not. If they are, they must enjoy the same rights and privileges as other Chinese citizens.
• Permit His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet for a visit if he so desires. He is a man of peace who will soon turn 82 years old. He should be able to visit his homeland.
• Demonstrate true respect for the human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people. A first step would be to permit an independent international investigation into the July 2015 death in custody of revered lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

Policy Changes the United States Must Enact:

• Appoint the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues as quickly as possible. To make progress, we need someone in charge.
• Insist that China restart the dialogue to lead to a negotiated agreement on Tibet.
• Develop a list of Chinese officials subject to sanction under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. No one responsible for torture and extrajudicial killings, or for significant corruption, should benefit from coming to our country and doing business here.
• Publicly engage the Dalai Lama and the democratically-elected leader of the Tibetan people. The State Department should take every opportunity to benefit from the Dalai Lama’s knowledge and decades of reflections. The Secretary of State should highlight the democratic practices of the Tibetan people, and meet personally with the Sikyong, Dr. Lobsang Sangay.
• Engage other governments to create a Group of Friends of Tibet. It’s time to pursue a coordinated international action in support of the Tibetan people.

Click Here for Video of Today’s Speech

Full Text of Congressman McGovern’s Speech on U.S. Tibet Policy:

“In 2002, Congress passed the Tibetan Policy Act ‘to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity.’

“The law laid out steps to protect the distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of Tibet, and to press for improved respect for the human rights of the Tibetan people -- a dialogue between His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government; the 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.

• Mr. Speaker, these were basic, common-sense steps. Yet 15 years later there is little progress:
• The Chinese-Tibet dialogue has been suspended since 2010.
• There are hundreds of Tibetan prisoners of conscience. Many are monks. Some, like Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, have died in custody.
• There is still no U.S. consular office in Lhasa, a major problem for U.S. officials trying to respond to emergencies like the 2015 earthquake that trapped dozens of our citizens in the Tibetan Autonomous Region.
• And the Chinese government, officially atheist, has declared that it will decide who will be reincarnated as the next Dalai Lama.

“I want to express my concern for the well-being of the missing 11th Panchen Lama, the second highest leader in the Tibetan religion.

“Twenty-two years ago, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima was detained by Chinese authorities when he was just 6 years old, and just three days after the Dalai Lama declared him to be the reincarnated Panchen Lama.

“Today, he is one of the world’s longest-serving political prisoners. China has refused to provide any details of his whereabouts.

“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.

“I constantly receive reports from Tibet of human rights abuses and affronts to basic human dignity -- like the demolition of buildings and forced eviction of religious people from the famous Buddhist institute at Larung Gar. Or the restrictions that keep Tibetans from traveling around their own country, much less abroad.

“We need to rethink U.S. policy toward Tibet. For years, China has faced no consequences for its failure to respect the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people. This must change.

“Along with a bipartisan group of Members of Congress, I have introduced H.R. 1872, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act. This bill imposes consequences for just one aspect of China’s bad behavior: its restrictions on travel to areas in China where ethnic Tibetans live.

“U.S. diplomats, journalists, and tourists have to get a special permit to enter the Tibet Autonomous Region, and travel to other Tibetan areas is also tightly controlled.

“But under H.R. 1872, no senior leader responsible for designing or implementing travel restrictions to Tibetan areas would be eligible to enter the United States.

“The rationale for the bill is simple. The basis of diplomatic law is mutual access and reciprocity.

“But while the Chinese enjoy broad access to the United States, the same is not true for U.S. diplomats, journalists or tourists going to Tibet -- including Tibetan-Americans trying to visit their place of origin.

“This is simply unacceptable.

“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.

“Allowing travel to Tibet is only one step China needs to take. It must also:

• Remove the obstacles to freedom of movement for Tibetans within China and abroad. China can’t have it both ways. Either Tibetans are Chinese citizens or they’re not. If they are, they must enjoy the same rights and privileges as other Chinese citizens.
• Permit His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet for a visit if he so desires. He is a man of peace who will soon turn 82 years old. He should be able to visit his homeland.
• Demonstrate true respect for the human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people. A first step would be to permit an independent international investigation into the July 2015 death in custody of revered lama Tenzin Delek Rinpoche.

“On our side, the new Trump Administration needs to:

• Appoint the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues as quickly as possible. To make progress, we need someone in charge.
• Insist that China restart the dialogue to lead to a negotiated agreement on Tibet.
• Develop a list of Chinese officials subject to sanction under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act. No one responsible for torture and extrajudicial killings, or for significant corruption, should benefit from coming to our country and doing business here.
• Publicly engage the Dalai Lama and the democratically-elected leader of the Tibetan people. The State Department should take every opportunity to benefit from the Dalai Lama’s knowledge and decades of reflections. The Secretary of State should highlight the democratic practices of the Tibetan people, and meet personally with the Sikyong, Dr. Lobsang Sangay.
• Engage other governments to create a Group of Friends of Tibet. It’s time to pursue a coordinated international action in support of the Tibetan people.

“Time may be running out for the Tibetan people. All those who say they believe in the rights of the Tibetans must move beyond words to concrete actions.

“I urge my colleagues to cosponsor H.R. 1872, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, and to support additional measures to protect all that is unique about Tibet and its people.”

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