Dharamshala — “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 cannot have it both ways. Either Tibetans are Chinese citizens or they are not. If they are, they must enjoy the same rights and privileges as other Chinese citizens. China also must 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,” said US Representative McGovern during his plea for Tibet to the House.
United States Representatives Jim McGovern and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen spoke May 2nd in the House of Representatives to draw attention to the situation inside Tibet, calling for a new US policy toward Tibet to safeguard its unique and distinct identity, and to encourage fellow Congressmen to join their bill, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.
Standing next to a portrait of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Congressman McGovern expressed his disappointment at the progress since the implementation of Tibetan Policy Act in 2002, which was passed “to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and to press for rights for the Tibetan people.” The Congressman said that despite them being “basic, commonsense steps” little progress has been made.
“15 years later there is little progress. The Chinese Tibet dialogue has been suspended since 2010, there are hundreds of Tibetan prisoners of conscious, many of them monks. Some like Tenzin Delek Rinpoche have died in custody. There is still no US Consular office in Lhasa.”
Reiterating his call for a US consular office in Lhasa, the lawmaker proposed a few suggestions to the Trump Administration including appointment of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, to insist China to reinitiate the Sino -Tibet dialogue, and to have public engagements with the Dalai Lama and the President of Tibetan government in exile.
Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen also spoke about her concerns for Tibet and the region, saying, “In 2007 I authored legislation that paved the way for Congress to award the Congressional Medal of Honor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Today, I am concerned that the issue of Tibet is being pushed to the sidelines, a mistake that could have profound consequences not only for Tibet, but for the entire Asian continent. 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.”
Urging his colleagues to cosponsor his bill, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, McGovern said, “US 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 while the Chinese enjoy broad access to the US. The rationale for the bill is simple. The basis of diplomatic law is mutual access and reciprocity.
“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 cannot have it both ways. Either Tibetans are Chinese citizens or they are not. If they are, they must enjoy the same rights and privileges as other Chinese citizens. China also must 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.”
He said, “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.”
McGovern will be part of a high-level U.S. Congressional delegation led by U.S. House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, that is scheduled to visit Dharamshala for two days from May 9-10th. The n eight-member bipartisan delegation will be greeted by His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the public during an event on May 10th.