Hearing on "U.S. Policy Considerations in Tibet"
Remarks of the Honorable Henry J. Hyde
March 7, 2002
Of the many infamous episodes in the century just past, one that still echoes is the statement by British Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain in which he publicly washed his hands of involvement in what he termed "a quarrel in a far away country between people of whom we know nothing."
With that statement, Chamberlain ensured that he, his country, and the world would pay a price immeasurably greater than any he was capable of imagining. We have since learned that there are no countries that are sufficiently far enough away that we can safely ignore what happens within them, nor are there peoples so insignificant that we can rightly dismiss them from our consideration. It is with these thoughts in mind that we have convened today's hearing on Tibet.
The United States government recognizes Tibet to be a part of China. It is not the purpose of this hearing to dispute that position. But that recognition does not imply that the people of Tibet - indeed, all peoples - do not possess a fundamental right to live their lives as they see fit and without persecution. We - and the world - will continue to voice our concerns regarding conditions in Tibet and to press for the resolution of current and future disputes in a manner that promotes the interests of the people of Tibet as they themselves define those interests. To do so is not interference; it is our duty.
That being said, there are many issues regarding Tibet that evoke great concern on our part. First among these are reports of continuing and widespread human rights abuses, including arbitrary arrest, detention without public trial, and the use of torture. Many of these acts are focused on Tibetans attempting to preserve their religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage. I note with dismay that freedom of religion remains narrowly circumscribed in Tibet. Government repression extends to the direct persecution of believers, the arrest and abuse of monks and nuns, and the outright prohibition of many religious observances. In addition to the limitations imposed on the general population, monasteries and convents have been singled out for even tighter constraints, with comprehensive political controls of their operations and functions made even more onerous by forced political indoctrination.
Unfortunately, as we have seen, these abuses are not limited to Tibet. Unapproved religious activity is severely repressed throughout China. But the situation in Tibet is particularly acute, due to the authorities' fear that free religious expression may encourage political activism and Tibetan nationalism.
Our concerns are only magnified by the lack of reliable information emerging from Tibet, a problem stemming directly from the Chinese government's long-standing policy of limiting communication between Tibet and the outside world. Deprived of direct access, we have little recourse but to believe the many credible reports coming out of Tibet of continued repression and of human rights abuses. If the Chinese government desires to refute these charges, the most effective means of doing so would be to remove these restrictions and allow unhindered access to, and communication with, Tibet.
The list I have outlined is not meant to be an exhaustive one, but it does serve as an indication of the range and depth of our concerns. To these, let me add one other subject: the plight of the Tibetan refugees in India, Nepal, and elsewhere. This unfortunate population has been estimated to number 100,000, and it is still growing as others make their way out of Tibet. We should bear in mind that even as we remain rightly concerned about the people within Tibet, we must remember our own responsibilities to those Tibetans who have been forced to flee their homeland.
How might we best use our influence? By keeping the world's attention directed to Tibet and by demonstrating our abiding interest in that region's affairs, great and small. The authorities in Beijing must be made to understand that these issues cannot be relegated to the penumbra of our relations with China but instead will always occupy a central place. Our goal is not confrontation. Instead, our efforts are entirely pacific and have as their only objective assisting the people of Tibet to secure the right to live their lives in freedom. Our hope is that we may yet contribute to a just and lasting solution.
3. Statement of Under Secretary Paula J. Dobriansky,
Under Secretary Paula J. Dobriansky
Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues,
House International Relations Committee U.S. Policy Considerations in Tibet
March 7, 2002
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Committee, I am delighted to appear before you today to testify on U.S. policy considerations in Tibet. I truly appreciate the interest and support Members of this Committee have provided on this issue. I would also like to thank the Dalai Lama's Special Envoy, Lodi Gyari, the International Campaign for Tibet, the myriad of experts, including Richard Gere who is with us today, and non-governmental organizations that have met with me over the past year.
I was appointed 10 months ago to serve as Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues concurrently with my portfolio as Under Secretary for Global Affairs. The U.S. Government's policy goals are two-fold: first to promote a substantive dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama or his representatives, and second, to help sustain Tibet's unique religious, linguistic, and cultural heritage.
Mr. Chairman, as you and your colleagues know, disputes over Tibet's relations with the Chinese government have a long, complex history, dating back centuries. Rather than focus my testimony on the distant past, I would like to describe the current circumstances in Tibet, highlighting key developments over the past year and the areas on which I have focused since my appointment.
Current Situation in Tibet The situation on the ground in Tibet remains grave. The State Department's annual Human Rights Report for 2001, in the section on China, clearly states that tight controls on religion and other fundamental freedoms remain serious problems. The report describes in detail widespread human rights and religious freedom abuses, including instances of arbitrary arrests, detention without public trial, torture in prison, and official controls over Tibetan monasteries and institutions on monks and nuns.
Tibet remains China's poorest region even though China has devoted substantial economic resources to Tibet over the past 20 years. Language problems severely limit educational opportunities for Tibetan students, illiteracy rates are said to be rising, and non-urban children in some regions are chronically undernourished. Some reports suggest that privatization of health care, increased emphasis on Chinese language curriculum, and continuing Han migration into Tibet are all weakening the social and economic position of Tibet's indigenous population.
Key developments In October 2001, we resumed our bilateral human rights dialogue with the Chinese. We made clear from the outset that our expectation was that these talks are to be substantive and results oriented. We also reiterated that the terrorist attacks of September 11 serve as a powerful reminder that the futures of responsible nations of the world are intertwined and that we must work together to ensure peace and stability for all. We used this human rights forum to raise individual cases of concern.
Most notable is the issue of the welfare and whereabouts of Gendhun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama, and his parents, who have been held incommunicado now for 7 years. The Chinese maintain that he is a "normal schoolboy" living in China.
Despite our urgings to the Chinese to allow the boy and his family to receive international visitors, they refuse to allow direct confirmation of his well-being. It is hard to understand why, if the boy is thriving as they have indicated in the past, it would be difficult to arrange a brief visit to confirm his status. Indeed, concern about the boy grows each day that his fate remains uncertain. Verbal assurances are not sufficient to allay international concerns. Agreement to such a visit would send a very positive signal to the world about China's intentions with regard to religious freedom.
In January, as a humanitarian gesture, the Chinese Government did release Ngawang Choephel, the Tibetan ethnomusicologist and former Middlebury College Fulbright Scholar who was incarcerated in 1995 on charges of espionage. We were pleased with this development; along with many Members of Congress, the Administration had pushed hard for such a step. Still, we made it very clear to the Chinese that occasional and individual releases of political prisoners are simply not enough. It is more important than ever that we work together to narrow differences on issues such as human rights so that obstacles that have slowed the pace of the development of our bilateral relationship can be moved aside. As Secretary Powell stated before this very Committee just a month ago, "a candid, constructive, and cooperative relationship is what we are building with China -- candid where we disagree, constructive where we can see some daylight, and cooperative where we have common regional or global interests."
My Role Last May, the President, Secretary Powell, and I got to hear firsthand about the situation in Tibet from the Dalai Lama. Our conversations with him left me convinced of the Dalai Lama's interest in pursuing dialogue with China's leaders. He also remains firmly committed to seeking "genuine autonomy" for Tibet within the framework of the People's Republic of China.
Last summer, Secretary Powell went to Beijing to set the groundwork for President Bush's scheduled visit to China in October. Shortly thereafter, Foreign Minister Tang traveled to Washington to follow up on the Secretary's initiatives. During the Foreign Minister's visit, I was included in bilateral discussions which afforded an opportunity to raise concerns about Tibet directly with one of China's most influential leaders. The President went to Shanghai in October and had his first summit meeting with President Jiang. The two leaders had a full agenda that encompassed joint cooperation against terrorism and other security concerns, bilateral economic and defense ties, religious freedom, human rights, and Tibet.
The last time the leaders of our two countries got together in China, President Jiang left then-President Clinton with the impression that progress on the Tibet issue was imminent. The Chinese leader publicly expressed a readiness, albeit with pre-conditions, to meet with the Dalai Lama. Unfortunately, he soon retreated from his statement, and instead of the beginning of substantive and direct dialogue, the 1998 Clinton-Jiang Summit seemingly marked the end of communication between the two sides.
I accompanied President Bush on his trips to Shanghai and Beijing. On both visits, the President urged the Chinese leadership to negotiate directly with His Holiness or his representatives, noting that the Dalai Lama's call for genuine autonomy was sincere.
In December, I traveled to Norway to meet with the Dalai Lama and to get his perspective. Later this month, I plan to meet with EU counterparts to solicit their views on the situation in Tibet and best means to foster dialogue.
Conclusion Widespread knowledge of China's poor human rights record in Tibet harms its international reputation and credibility. Tibet, in other words, is a difficult issue for China internationally, and a problem for U.S.-China relations. As Beijing approaches its 2002 Communist Party Congress, it is my impression that China's leaders see the Tibet issue as a complex political task with considerable domestic political risks.
Fears of loss of central control in Tibet, the Far West, or even in coastal China, are deep-seated. China's leadership has drawn lessons from the break-up of the Soviet Union. Examples worldwide of domestic instability based on ethnic strife demonstrate that mutual collaboration, reasonable compromise and protection of ethnic, cultural and religious rights are the best course of action for protecting national sovereignty and stability over the long-term. Indeed, the lessons of the recent past, properly construed, make the case for why Beijing should engage the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet.
The Dalai Lama can be an asset to the difficult challenge of regional and national stability. He indisputably represents the opinion of most Tibetans, and his moral authority transcends Tibetan interests. If the Chinese government fails to engage with the Dalai Lama who vigorously seeks dialogue and a mutual solution, Tibetan resistance could intensify and the potential for political upheaval could grow.
Resolving the situation in Tibet would be a win for both the Chinese Government and the Tibetan people. China stands to gain on a number of fronts. First, finding a resolution to the Tibet problem would add stability in China and provide more opportunities for cooperative economic growth. Second, the international spotlight on this issue will dim, thus removing a major impediment for engagement with China. Third, China will show itself to be serious about adhering to international standards on human rights and being a respected player in the international community. Tibetans stand to gain, what is most important to them -- the preservation of their culture, linguistic and ethnic heritage.
Conversely, much will be lost if this situation is not resolved. As President stated at Qinghua University in Beijing, "In a free society, diversity is not disorder. Debate is not strife. And dissent is not revolution. A free society trusts its citizens to seek greatness in themselves and their country." Open dialogue among all citizens and a fundamental protection of basic rights under the rule of law are key ingredients for internal stability - a goal that both the Chinese and Tibetans seek. The lack of resolution on this issue will be a stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement with the United States and others.
Three days from now, the Dalai Lama will commemorate his forty-third year of living in exile. The Dalai Lama has shown enormous courage in articulating his position on autonomy for Tibet within the People's Republic of China. Should the Chinese reach an agreement with the Dalai Lama, they will open to the next generation a road to peace, advancing both Chinese and Tibetan interests. We look for the Chinese to begin the journey down this road.
In closing, I would like to thank you for this opportunity to testify today. I look forward to working with you now and in the future on this extremely important issue.
4. Testimony of Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari
Special Envoy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama
Hearing on U.S. Policy Considerations in Tibet House Committee on International Relations
March 7, 2002
Chairman Hyde, it is an honor to testify before this esteemed Committee. Thank you for your interest. Indeed, the long sustained interest of the International Relations Committee in the issue of Tibet has been a significant asset to the efforts of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan leadership as we continue to seek a negotiated solution with Beijing.
I have just returned from a visit to India to consult with the Tibetan leadership and His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has asked me to convey his greetings and gratitude to you, Mr. Chairman, and the members of this Committee. As was widely reported in the media, His Holiness was recently indisposed, but now I am pleased to inform you that he is has completely recovered and is beginning to attend to his normal routine.
Members of Congress acting in Committee and individually have taken significant initiative to reach out to the Chinese leadership to urge dialogue with His Holiness, respect for religious freedom, and on behalf of certain Tibetan political prisoners. I know that some congressional friends have been deeply frustrated in their efforts and have even questioned the utility of continuously raising Tibet with the Chinese when their words appear to fall on deaf ears. Yet, I must ask you today not to give up.
For the people of Tibet, congressional resolve has given us hope that the possibility of a political solution has not been foreclosed. As long as people have hope, they refrain from desperate measures.
Although Tibetans inside Tibet must live in a political and economic situation increasingly beyond their control and by every measure less and less Tibetan, they still cling to hope -- hope that His Holiness the Dalai Lama will one day return and hope that they will be delivered from Chinese oppression.
As His Holiness has given me the responsibility of assisting him to reach out to the Chinese leadership, I can assure you that we are working very hard and sincerely to start a dialogue leading to negotiations. His Holiness the Dalai Lama's Middle Way approach provides a meeting point between Tibetan and Chinese interests. In brief, this approach says that despite the historical right of Tibetans to be independent, His Holiness is willing to begin talks on genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people within the People's Republic of China.
When His Holiness met President George W. Bush last May, he sought the administration's support in encouraging the Chinese government to respond positively to his efforts at dialogue. He also explicitly asked the President to convey to the Chinese government that he is only seeking genuine autonomy for the Tibetan people, and not independence.
President Bush strongly spoke about Tibet during his visit to Shanghai last year. Again, during his recent visit to Beijing, President Bush urged negotiations with the Dalai Lama. On both these trips the President conveyed the serious concern for Tibet by including in his delegation Undersecretary Dobriansky, the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.
I would also like to use this occasion to express publicly my appreciation to Secretary of State Colin Powell for his selection of Undersecretary Dobriansky to be the Tibet Coordinator. I have worked with Undersecretary Dobriansky for some eight months and on three continents. She is committed to making progress on the issue of dialogue and has assiduously labored on that front. His Holiness and leaders of the Tibetan exile government are especially pleased to know that someone who intuitively understands devotion to homeland and sees the possibility for change in Tibet is now the U.S. representative to the Chinese leadership on Tibetan issues.
In spite of these efforts and to our disappointment, the Chinese government has not only failed to respond positively but they continues to create the impression that His Holiness the Dalai Lama continues to engage in "splittist" activities and, for reasons which are beyond my comprehension, they continue to misrepresent and distort His Holiness' actions.
In October last year His Holiness was invited to address the full plenary session of the European Parliament. It was my privilege to accompany him to Strasbourg, France. At the European Parliament, His Holiness restated his position that he is seeking genuine autonomy, not independence, for Tibet. I ask that the full text of His Holiness the Dalai Lama's October 24, 2001 address to the European Parliament be included in the official record of this hearing. His Holiness said, in part:
"I have led the Tibetan freedom struggle on a path on non-violence and have consistently sought a mutually agreeable solution to the Tibetan issue through negotiations in the spirit of reconciliation and compromise with China. My proposal envisages that Tibet enjoy genuine autonomy within the framework of the People's Republic of China.
However, not the autonomy on paper imposed on us 50 years ago in the 17-Point Agreement, but a true self-governing, genuinely autonomous Tibet, with Tibetans fully responsible for their own domestic affairs, including the education of their children, religious matters, cultural affairs, the care of their delicate and precious environment, and the local economy. Beijing would continue to be responsible for the conduct of foreign and defense affairs. This solution would greatly enhance the international image of China and contribute to her stability and unity - the two topmost priorities of Beijing - while at the same time the Tibetans would be ensured of the basic rights and freedoms to preserve their own civilization and to protect the delicate environment of the Tibetan Plateau."
In three days, His Holiness will deliver his annual address to the Tibetan people on the 43rd anniversary of the 1959 uprising and his flight into exile. His Holiness will once again repeat his commitment to non-violence and dialogue.
Although on the issue of negotiations, we have seen no substantive movement, we have not given up hope. In fact we are going to be much more vigorous in our effort while China's policies toward the Tibetan people continue to be repressive.
It is encouraging to see the overall trend in China, which I must say is one that is moving in the right direction even though at much slower pace than we all hope for. I was reflecting yesterday on the March 5 address by Chinese Premier Zhu Rongji to the National People's Congress. Compared to the rhetoric that one heard from Chinese leaders
15 to 20 years back, the difference is, to use a term the Chinese themselves are fond of using, "earth shattering." In particular, I was encouraged to read Premier Zhu reflecting the mood and anger of the Chinese workers and farmers. Advising the Chinese officials, Premier Zhu said, "We should initiate investigations and studies, go all the way down to the realities of life and to the people to learn their actual conditions, listen to their opinions, share their weal and woe, and lose no time in solving the problems they resent or are dissatisfied about."
This is precisely what the Chinese leadership needs to do on Tibet. The problem is not the relationship between His Holiness and the Chinese and definitely not about the return of the Dalai Lama or his position. If the Chinese authorities reflected on the Tibetan problem in the way Premier Zhu was advising, it should be them who should be seeking the good offices of the Dalai Lama to find a solution.
Mr. Chairman, my intention is not to spend my time and energy knocking on the doors of the international community and institutions such as this august body but to engage directly the Chinese in serious and meaningful dialogue to resolve the issue. But until we get a positive response from the Chinese side and our talks begin, His Holiness the Dalai Lama and those who work for him have an obligation to the Tibetan people to make every effort possible to continue to talk about the plight of the Tibetan people, both publicly and privately, and to urge the Chinese government to respond to our sincere effort.
The United States Congress has been a beacon of hope to the Tibetan people's nonviolent, legitimate struggle for the preservation and promotion of their unique heritage and national identity. Congressional action on Tibet has gone beyond expressions of support to include important concrete help through various assistance programs.
These programs go beyond taking care of the immediate needs of refugees who have had to flee our homeland to include projects that help preserve Tibet's distinct identity and cultural, religious and linguistic heritage.
Ironically, the essence of the Tibetan culture, if not its full flowering, is currently best preserved outside of Tibet because His Holiness the Dalai Lama has reestablished many of our traditional institutions in exile to this purpose. Today, while preserving our traditional Tibetan way of life, Tibetans in exile live in a vibrant modern and democratic civil society, with the highest of our government's leaders directly elected by the people and a vibrant civil society. The generous assistance provided by the people of the United States is making it possible for an ancient but living Tibetan civilization to sustain itself.
One of the major concerns of our struggle is the empowerment of the Tibetan people. We are gratified that the United States is contributing in the preparation of our young people to serve our community through educational opportunities in many of your best institutions.
Tibetans in exile also receive support and assistance for the promotion of human rights and democracy training through small program grants of the National Endowment for Democracy. These targeted grants have been of great value to our fledgling NGOs, our free press, and have enriched the community at large, an arrangement that has been tremendously gratifying for all parties involved.
Of greatest concern to His Holiness the Dalai Lama are Tibetans inside Tibet. Under the present circumstances, there is very little that His Holiness can directly contribute towards their socio-economic well-being. However, we greatly appreciate and strongly encourage congressional support for some programs inside Tibet.
It is very important to monitor the programs so that they directly benefit the Tibetan people and to make certain that the programs are implemented in the most sensible and sensitive manner, so as not to put at risk the people on the ground. Since the intention of these programs is to help stave off the process of marginalization and to empower Tibetans, it is essential that the programs be inspired, and to the greatest extent possible, implemented by Tibetans and not imposed solely at the discretion of "experts."
It is ironic that the present Chinese attitude has, in fact, become a major hindrance to the infusion of tremendous international interest in participating in the reconstruction and development of Tibet. The contact, goodwill and the warm relations that His Holiness and the Tibetan people have established in the last 50 years could serve as a tremendous resource for Tibet. It would have been a positive and meaningful development had the much-publicized "Western Development " program -- as far as it affected Tibetan areas -- was formulated in consultation with His Holiness. It is never too late. Instead the "Western Development" program is becoming yet another source of resentment for the Tibetans in Tibet against the Chinese leadership because they do not see any direct benefit.
Other congressional initiatives that have long-term positive influence on the Tibetan people are the Tibetan language programs of the Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. Today, Tibetans inside Tibet are informed about international initiatives on Tibet on a daily basis through these broadcasts. While we are pleased with the overall performance of these programs, it is important for the Congress from time to time to review their performances to see that the goals and the intent of the Congress are maintained.
Comprehensive legislation that incorporates all of these initiatives is the Tibetan Policy Act, which is presently before the Congress. It was introduced in the House by Congressmen Lantos and Kirk and has, I believe, 98 cosponsors. Senator Dianne Feinstein, who regards His Holiness the Dalai Lama and Senior Chinese leaders as her friends, spoke these words on the Senate floor when introducing the Senate bill:
"I want to be a positive force for bringing Tibetan and Chinese leaders to the table for face-to-face dialogue. It is not my intention with this legislation to merely point fingers and lay blame...my intent in introducing the Tibetan Policy Act is to place the full faith of the United States Government behind efforts to preserve the distinct cultural, religious and ethnic autonomy of the Tibetan people...I am convinced that we must send a clear message."
Mr. Chairman, you can be sure that the Tibetan Policy Act and other messages sent by this body on behalf of the political and human rights challenges facing Tibetans are heard and carefully noted in Beijing. As China enters into a period of political transition, unsettled issues, such as Tibet, could be reconsidered and international implications for policy adjustments would be weighed.
We are deeply concerned about the human rights situation in Tibet. The Tibet section of the Human Rights report released by the State Department this week indicates the seriousness lack of freedom in Tibet. I hope that future reports on Tibet by the State Department will be comprehensive, cover all Tibetan areas, and reflect the spirit and intent of the legislation that directed the State Department to report on human rights abuses in Tibet.
Hundreds of political prisoners languish in jails. I said when Ngawang Choephel was released that, if this is a genuine effort on China's part to make a gesture to the Tibetan people and not an appeasement to President Bush on the eve of his Beijing visit, then it needs to be followed by the release of additional political prisoners. Tanak Jigme Sangpo, a 74-year old teacher who spent the best part of his life in prison, as well as the nuns in Drapchi prison -- Ngawang Sandrol, Gyaltsen Drolkar, Ngawang Choezom, Jigme Yangchen, Ngawang Choekyi, Phuntsog Nyidron, Lhundrub Zangmo, Tenzin Thubten, Rigzin Choekyi, Ngawang Tsamdrol and Namdrol Lhamo -- should all be released.
I would like to thank the Congress for its advocacy on behalf of Ngawang Choephel and other prisoners, and Congressman Lantos for his personal efforts on behalf of Tanak Jigme Sangpo. Of course, our major concern continues to be the case of the young Panchen Lama. Even today we have no information on his whereabouts. The Panchen Lama is still missing 7 years after he was taken into custody by the Chinese authorities at the age of 6. His continued detention is not merely an egregious affront to religious freedom; it is a cruelty against a child.
Concerning Chadrel Rinpoche, there are conflicting reports. His sentence is complete but the Chinese government has not made any formal announcement about his release. We wait with hope for some positive movement from the Chinese side. In the next six months, if some prominent Tibetan political prisoners are released, then we will acknowledge that there is a positive trend.
This year and the next are years of opportunity and challenge for Tibet. As we all know, a new leadership will be ushered in. However, unlike some other observers, I do not expect any major fundamental shift. Jiang Zemin will continue to exert a strong influence and if the succession process goes smoothly the present Vice President, Hu Jintao, will be the leader of the fourth generation that will take charge. I do not intend to present here an analytical study of the Chinese leadership. However, the fact that Hu spent some time in Tibet and is well versed with the situation there could be a positive factor and an opportunity for Tibet. However, I believe that we need to look at Hu Jintao in his unique situation, instead of trying to see if he will be a "Gorbachov" or a "Putin." China will continue to be governed by a collective leadership with Hu at the core.
Again, Mr. Chairman and Congressman Lantos, thank you for convening this hearing. I look forward to working with you, Chairman Leach, and all members of this Committee in the interest of Tibet.