Washington, D.C. — After meeting with top Chinese government officials in China and Tibet, the delegation of US Congressional Democrats led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said on Tuesday an opportunity exists to find "common ground" with Chinese authorities on Tibet.
The Democratic Minority leader of the United States House of Representatives, Nancy Pelosi, held a press conference on November 17, 2015 in Washington D.C. detailing the congressional delegation trip to China and Tibet earlier this month. Flanked by the other members who formed the delegation, Representatives Jim McGovern of Massachusettes, Betty McCollum and Tim Walz of Minnesota, Joyce Beatty of Ohio and Alan Lowenthal and Ted Lieu of California, Pelosi detailed the trip and dispelled some of the statements attributed to her by the Communist Chinese state controlled Media.
While praising the willingness of the government to entertain a dialogue on the future of Tibet and some advances on climate changed intellectual property, the Minority leader was blunt in her assessment of the willingness of the Communist Chinese to have an honest discussion on the future of the Tibetan people and their culture. Pelosi said,” In Tibet, really actually starting with the meeting of President Xi Jinping when he was here, what I was concerned about was the attitude of the Chinese government to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. When I said, and Senator Feinstein also said, that His Holiness is about autonomy not about independence. That idea was rejected by the President and so it was also on this trip. It’s something that gives me some hope because we know that for decades – the first time I saw His Holiness was here in 1988 – and his whole message was about autonomy. So if they think it’s about independence, he says it’s about autonomy. We only support autonomy. We believe Tibet is a part of China. Then I think there is an opportunity to find common ground.”
Furthermore Pelosi stated,” Because of course in addition to the reverence we have for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and faith that we have in his commitment to autonomy, we also want to see a perpetuation of Tibetan culture. And again, another different perspective was that it’s beautiful if the Chinese government spends a lot of money to guild the temple roof, the roof of the temple, but we’re interested in what’s happening in the minds of children and the education and the perpetuation of the culture there.”
Representative McGovern, Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, gave the delegation’s assessment of the situation in Tibet and the attempt by the Communist Chinese to control what, where and how the delegation had access to reliable information to the Tibetan people’s plight. McGovern described a security detail of 25-30 officers, not counting people on walkie-talkies who tried to guide the seven Americans and interfere with their access to people and sites.
McGovern said at the press conference:
“I want to thank Leader Pelosi for organizing this trip, and for allowing me to be part of it. Everywhere that Leader Pelosi or the delegation and I went in Tibet and Beijing, we talked about Tibet; we talked about His Holiness the Dalai Lama; we talked about human rights and the importance of respect for people’s culture and religion. We had a very good exchange with Chinese officials and, especially, with university students, both in Tibet and Beijing. I saw this trip, and especially the delegation’s visit to Tibet, as an important gesture by the Chinese government. I think we were the first Members of Congress to be granted a visa to travel to Tibet in many years. So this is an important gesture.
But more needs to be done. And we must find ways to build on this visit, and make the reforms needed for meaningful change, such as: one, allowing the United States to open a consulate in Lhasa, Tibet; two, allowing more Members of Congress, more journalists, more members of parliament from other nations, and more people in general – including Members of the Tibetan community here in the United States – to travel freely to Tibet; and three, renewing the dialogue with the Dalai Lama to resolve longstanding issues of Tibetan autonomy, religious practice, culture and heritage. I believe that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is part of the solution, not the problem, to resolving the issues confronting Tibetan autonomy. You know, one of the things that concerned me – we heard too often from some, not all, but some Chinese officials, we heard language and characterizations of Tibet and the Dalai Lama showing that people’s minds and imaginations are stuck in the past, in old prejudices. The issue is not the past. The issue is the future of Tibet and its people.
Renewing dialogue must be genuine and productive, and it cannot be just another guise for wasting time or going through the motions – but a dialogue based on good faith and the mutual need to resolve outstanding issues in a way that is acceptable to all parties. Undertaking such initiatives would be a positive reflection on the capacity of Chinese authorities to engage in constructive dialogue, and increase confidence that the government is committed to reconciliation and ending abuses in Tibet. The Chinese government has invested a great deal in Tibet, and that was very clear to us. But that investment should not come at the price of an entire culture. You cannot confine a people’s culture and heritage – their very sense of identity – to a museum or a market of handicrafts. The human rights of the Tibetan people must be strengthened and protected, and I will continue to work with my colleagues in Congress, with the Leader, to push for the reforms needed to achieve this. Again, I view this trip as a very productive step, and a very important first step towards resolving some of these important issues.”
McGovern further said that the Communist Chinese who were escorting the delegation did not foresee Pelosi’s tenacity in demanding to view religious sites. McGovern said, “ I think it’s fair to say that I think the Chinese government wanted to control as much of our visit as they could. And we saw what they wanted us to see. We also saw things that they didn’t want us to see. And I think what they didn’t count on was the tenacity of Leader Pelosi, who wanted to visit religious sites, who wanted to visit monasteries, and who insisted and insisted and kind of wore some of these officials down so that we were able to see what we wanted to see as well. So, I felt like we got a wide perspective of life in Tibet. And we went to the meetings that the Chinese government wanted us to go to. We also visited places that we thought were important to the Tibetan people, to our constituents and to a lot of the people who have expressed concerns about human rights over the years. I think we got a good exposure.”
Pelosi also said, “And right from the start with all this – I think 30 is probably a conservative estimate because there were people who – shall we say – had walkie talkies that may not have been identified as security who are part of the mass movement through the – down the path and through the old part of Tibet. But, those same people, right from the start, kind of complained that there was too much ‘tashi delek’ going on between us and the people who were standing around. They were like: ‘She wasn’t supposed to be doing that.’ ‘You weren’t supposed to be doing that.’ But, we did.”
As to the Communist Chinese willingness for future conversation, McGovern stated,” As I said – I’ll just repeat it. We continue to be concerned about the human rights situation in Tibet and about religious freedom issues and about people’s abilities to be able to live a life that they want. We had some very heated exchanges with Chinese government officials over a whole range of issues involving Tibet, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Some were more heated than others. Some drew a line in the sand. Some discussions I felt there was an openness to constructive dialogue. And I think that’s how we come to this issue at this point. Is that we can’t – we went, we learned, we appreciate the opportunity to be granted the opportunity to visit, but we want to move beyond the past, and we want to see whether or not the Chinese government is willing to engage in some constructive dialogue that can help promote reconciliation that can help resolve some of the issues that have torn families apart for many, many years.
I can’t tell you with certainty that the Chinese government will agree to doing ‘x,y and z,’ but I don’t think any of us came away feeling that the door was entirely closed on anything. And so our challenge is to work with our colleagues in a bipartisan way to see what can be done. And we are hopeful. And we’re hopeful, as I said, we can open up a consulate in Tibet which I think would be an important step. We’re hopeful that they’ll allow others to visit. And we’re hopeful that we’ll begin a more formal dialogue with His Holiness the Dalai Lama to resolve a whole range of issues.”
Another issue raised was more access by journalist, Pelosi said,” Leader Pelosi. No – well, we didn’t travel with journalists. In other words, the Chinese press was covering the trip. Now, I think – it’s specific, I mean, because there are many journalists in Beijing, but, you know, Tibet is a – Lhasa – it’s a different story, whether it’s opening an embassy, they talked about – I mean, a consulate. They talked about exchange students – more exchange students between our two countries. Well, that would speak to having a consulate there to address the needs of families visiting or students going there. So we think there are some openings that could happen. That would be very wholesome.”
Asked about the quote contained in the Communist Chinese controlled newspaper the Tibetan Daily praising the Chinese government for its actions in Tibet and protecting religious freedoms, Minority Leader Pelosi simply responded, “Well, I think that you consider the source.”
Pelosi went on to say “So, it was a wonderful trip. I had on my bracelet that was given to me by the Dalai Lama’s sister on his 80th birthday last summer. I don’t know if they knew what that was, but I mentioned it a few times.”