Washington, DC — In tow of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet's 19 day tour of the US, Democrat representative from the state of Massachusettes, Jim McGovern led a Special Order on the Tibet issue in the US House of Representatives on June 13, 2016.
A Special Order is a procedure that enables a Member of the House of Representatives to speak on any topic they wish, for a specified period of time, after all legislative business is concluded for the day.
This special order was raised fallowing a November 2015 trip taken by Jim McGovern, Nancy Pelosi, and other lawmakers and leaders to Tibet and China to keep a spotlight on human rights issues in Tibet.
"Everywhere we went, in every meeting we had, we talked about Tibet. We talked about the Dalai Lama and his strong bipartisan support in Congress. We talked about the importance of respect for people's cultures and religions, and we talked about the need to strengthen and protect all of the human rights of the Tibetan people."
Rep McGovern opened his speech by welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama to Washington, D.C. and then went on to deliver a thorough speech about the Tibet issue and the need for the international community to act now.
In praise of His Holiness he said, "He is a warm, generous, compassionate man with a great sense of humor. He is also a man of peace. He has consistently advocated policies of non-violence, even in the face of extreme aggression. In 1989 he was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize for his non-violent struggle for the liberation of Tibet. He has received over 150 awards, honorary doctorates, and prizes, in recognition of his messages of peace, non-violence, inter-religious understanding, universal responsibility and compassion. His is a voice for tolerance."
He lauded the democratic spirit of the Tibetan community by saying, "The Tibetan people are setting a democratic example for the world."
"I would like to take this opportunity to congratulate Dr Lobsang Sangay on his reelection as Sikyong, as well as the 45 newly elected members of the Tibetan parliament.
This election, conducted all around the world, reflects Tibetans' strong commitment to democracy, and sets an example for China."
On the issue of overwhelming inaction in regards to Tibet by the international community he stated, "But that struggle (struggle for an Autonomous Tibet) is not going very well today. And part of the reason it's not going well is that the international community today is more interested in not offending China than in vigorously supporting the human rights of the Tibetan people. It seems to me that my own government has fallen into this trap."
On the need to urgently empathise and be concerned by the Tibetan population he brought up the issue of self-immolation, "Tibetans themselves have tried to shock our conscience. Since 2009, 143 Tibetans inside China have self-immolated: 143 people have taken the unimaginable step of setting themselves on fire, some to protest Chinese government policies, others to call for the return of the Dalai Lama. Most of them are believed to have died as a result. What a terrible thing to have to do to try to get the world's attention."
Highlighting the blatant abuse of Tibetan Human Rights at the hands of the Chinese he quoted the U.S. State Department's most recent human rights report and also a Human Rights Watch report titled "Relentless" which was published a little over a month ago.
"Here's what a Tibetan living in Lhasa wrote about the conditions in late October and early November: "Lhasa was placed under extreme repression and the people were being constantly indoctrinated in political thoughts, using both violent and softer approaches. Free speech was also severely curtailed. So much so that people felt it difficult to even move their bodies [...]"
"Anyone who thinks the human rights situation for the Tibetan people in China is improving, or is not so bad, is just wrong."
For the future he suggested a number of campaigns and steps that should be taken by the US Administration and Congress to improve the situation in Tibet. He suggested passing a bill in the House that he introduced, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (H.R. 1112), and for the US government to invite the Dalai Lama to "every event on every occasion where his decades of knowledge, experience, and reflections would be helpful for addressing the world's problems." He also said that we should "insist that Tibet be part of our climate change discussions with China."
Some pragmatic steps to further aid the Tibetan people as suggested by Rep. McGovern
a. The United States needs to open a consulate in Lhasa, Tibet.
b. 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 – need to be allowed to travel freely to Tibet.
c. Tibetans in China need to be able to travel freely, as well.
d. The dialogue between Beijing and the Dalai Lama to resolve longstanding issues of Tibetan autonomy, religious practice, culture, language and heritage needs to be renewed.
Leader Pelosi opened her remarks by welcoming His Holiness the Dalai Lama to D.C. and stating that he is "among one of the things that we all (Democrats and Republicans) agree on – his greatness and the honor he brings us with his visit."
"I completely associate myself with every word of my colleague's comments, Mr. McGovern's comments. He talked about our visit to Lhasa, Tibet, and to China – all of China, other places in China – and we called Mr. McGovern the spiritual leader of our visit."
Rep. Pelosi then described her interactions with the Dalai Lama over the years, in Congress and elsewhere, as well as his broad bipartisan support, not just in Congress, but also in the White House. As she has said on previous occasions, Leader Pelosi reiterated that "Tibet remains a challenge to the conscience of the world, and we must respond to that."
In his written statement, Rep. Walz (D-MI) states that as the U.S. "continues to advance U.S.-China relations, we must never forget the people of Tibet. Restrictions on human rights and religious freedom in Tibet have been a growing concern to many." Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), in his written remarks – which focus on the denial of religious freedom in Tibet — describes the Dalai Lama as an "energetic and unfailing ambassador for human rights and the rights of the Tibetan people."
Representatives Capuano (D-MA), Sensenbrenner (R-WI), and Pocan (D-WI) paid tribute and offered welcome wishes to the Dalai Lama in their written statements, and Capuano and Sensenbrenner urged support in the House for pending legislation on Tibet each has introduced: H. Res. 584 (Capuano) which urges the President to seek an independent investigation into the death of Tibetan Buddhist leader Tenzin Delek Rinpoche and to publicly call for an end to the repressive policies of the People's Republic of China in Tibet, and H.R. 2679, the Tibetan Refugee Assistance Act of 2015 (Sensenbrenner) which aims at "providing 3,000 immigrant visas to qualified displaced Tibetans over a three-year period. The bill supports the well-being of the Tibetan exile community as they strive to find a peaceful solution for Tibet; helps the overburdened settlements in India and Nepal; and gives displaced Tibetans the opportunity to flourish as Tibetan-Americans."