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Calling on the Government of China to End its Crackdown in Tibet

Floor Speech

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Location: Washington, DC


Calling on the Government of China to End its Crackdown in Tibet

Ms. PELOSI. Madam Speaker, I thank the gentleman for yielding. I thank him for his leadership on the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the ranking Republican on the committee, for their leadership in bringing this resolution to the floor. It isn't without a tear in the eye that we bring this to the floor and remember our colleague, Congressman Tom Lantos, and how important this resolution would have been to him.

Twenty years ago when I was a new Member of Congress, Tom invited some of us to a meeting that I will never forget. It was with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. At that time he presented to us his proposal for autonomy for Tibet. That is over 20 years ago he has been preaching autonomy, and it is on that basis that we wanted him to have the opportunity to have full negotiations with the Chinese Government. They had said if he doesn't reject the idea of independence, that cannot happen. Well, he rejected independence 20 years ago, much to the dismay of those who want independence.

But, in any event, Tom Lantos opened the door for many of us to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Twenty years later, in the Capitol of the United States, under Tom's leadership and of that Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen, we were able to present to His Holiness the Congressional Gold Medal, the highest honor that this body can bestow. I am proud to say that President Bush stood there side-by-side with His Holiness presenting our Congressional Gold Medal to him. No President before had been so courageous, and I appreciate and am proud that President Bush did that.

Following that, we talked about taking a trip to India to talk about global warming, that our Energy Independence and Global Warming Task Force, which Mr. Markey and Mr. Sensenbrenner, who spoke so eloquently earlier, were in the lead on.

When we planned the trip, we had accepted His Holiness' invitation to visit him in Dharamsala, without any thought that it would be at a controversial time. As fate would have it, we made our plans in December and January. When we got there in the middle of March, it was following the crackdown in Tibet of the peaceful demonstrators in Lhasa and in other parts of Tibet by the Chinese Government. It was stunning really to see the reaction of the Chinese to the simple observance of the 49th anniversary of the Dalai Lama being forced out of Tibet by the Chinese. As the monks demonstrated and protested, the Chinese government cracked down.

While we were there, it was interesting to hear that the Government of China was saying that His Holiness was the instigator of violence in China, that he had the "heart of a jackal'' and all kind of animal references. We all love our animals, but they were not appropriate to His Holiness. We all know His Holiness to be the personification of nonviolence in the world, a bridge builder for peace and human understanding, as we said in our presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to him.

So we thought it must be our fate, it must be our karma, that we would be in Dharamsala at that time. As was indicated by some of our colleagues, Mr. Inslee mentioned that some monks had traveled for 5 days over Himalayas to Dharamsala to tell us about the treatment they had received.

Some of the people we met with, Mr. Smith, had been in prison for many years in China. One woman who was in her eighties had been in prison for over 25 years. We heard of the torture that was exacted upon them as recently as a matter of days before we were there. So the torture that you described that you heard about in your committee continues to this day, and we very tearfully received that information from the prisoners.

But the point is that in Tibet you are arrested and repressed for what you believe; not even for acting upon your beliefs, but for what you believe, and that is something that flies in the face of everything we stand for as a country. That is why I was so pleased that the President stood there and showed bipartisan spirit, Democrats and Republicans coming together, as Mr. Smith mentioned. We have worked on this issue for many years and in a very bipartisan way in terms of China.

Another place where China has influence that Mr. Smith and Mr. Wolf have been leaders has been in the Sudan. But for the Chinese's absolute insistence that they will not sanction the Sudan at the U.N., we could perhaps have an improvement in the human rights situation and the political situation in the Sudan.

Many of us took a trip, many Members have been there, I led a delegation there with Mr. Clyburn to Darfur a couple of years ago and we saw firsthand the genocide that was going on there. It was horrible to see. We went to several camps. In one camp, 100,000 refugees were there. We saw the little children. The tiny ones really still had some brightness in their eyes. The older ones, they had seen too much.

In this camp, in the evening when it would be cool, if the father went out to get firewood, he would be killed. If the mother went out, she could be raped. In any event, the children could be kidnapped. They had been displaced from their villages with compliance of the Government of Sudan.

All we need is strong international leadership to end that situation. China stands in the way. When we are talking about Tibet and when we are talking about the Olympics and we are talking about Tibet, we have to remember Burma as well and the house arrest also for all these many years.

We have to remember what is happening in Darfur. I was reading in the paper the other day as the torch was going through Paris that one of the marchers, the carriers of the torch said that what was happening with the protesters was very unpleasant. I thought, you think that's unpleasant? Maybe you should be in the sub-human conditions that the refugees are in Darfur. If you think that's unpleasant, maybe you should be in a prison in Tibet for your faith and His Holiness, the Dalai Lama.

You think that's unpleasant? Maybe you could still be in prison from the Tiananmen Square massacre. Some people are still in prison from that time.

Mr. Smith knows well the fight we had at the time because shortly after, a couple of years after Tiananmen, we were still fighting for the release of the prisoners of Tiananmen. We had about a $5 billion a year trade deficit.

We thought that that would give us so much leverage with the Chinese Government that surely if we threatened the most-favored nation status, as it was called then, that they would yield and release these prisoners because it meant $5 billion a year to them.

Well, we didn't win. We didn't prevail in that situation.

As I say, it was a Republican President and a Democratic President. We didn't get any better policy from either of them when it came to China. They told us that granting most-favored nation status, they changed the name to permanent normal trade relations because it sounded better, would, in fact, improve the political situation in China and improve our trade relationship with China.

When these people are saying it's unpleasant, I think it's unpleasant to think that a $5 billion a year trade deficit is now $5 billion a week, $5 billion a week. That is a quarter of a trillion dollars a year trade deficit with China.

Has it improved our trade relationship? I don't think so. Has it improved the human rights situation in China? I don't think so.

Somewhere along the way we lost our way. We said at the time, some of us, if you choose to ride this tiger that is China, only China will decide when you can get off. China won the Olympics. Some of us supported resolutions in opposition to that, but they won the Olympics.

I don't support a boycott of the Olympics. I think our athletes who have trained should be able to go there and compete. I think it should be treated as a sports event. Any time it tries to rise to the occasion of harmony, one world, one dream, a unifying factor, that is where it falls short, because the Chinese cannot on the one hand take the political upside of the credibility given to them at any welcoming ceremony and refuse to hear the other side of the political view that they are unworthy of making that claim.

As we speak tonight as we are gathered here in this Chamber, in my City of San Francisco human rights activists are preparing for the torch to come through our city tomorrow, a city very committed to human rights. I was very proud that yesterday they were able to display a "One World, One Dream: Free Tibet'' banner across the Golden Gate Bridge. It's just frightening to think of how they were able to accomplish it, but they got their message across with, probably in my view, the most beautiful backdrop in the world for all the world to see.

Tomorrow, as the torch goes through the city, people will voice their views on it. But, still tonight, Desmond Tutu is leading a prayer vigil in San Francisco in protest of what is happening with that torch going through.

Probably the most insulting of all, though, is that China insists that the torch go through Tibet, that it go to Mount Everest and through Tibet on its way back to Beijing. That's the biggest insult, I think, of all. The world should not allow that to happen. What's right about that?

When I was in Dharamsala, I had the privilege of addressing the crowd gathered in the square. I said at the time that the situation in Tibet challenges the conscience of the world. Indeed, the situation in Darfur challenges the conscience of the world, two places where China can change, make a difference. I also said that if we, the freedom-loving people throughout the world do not stand up for human rights in China and Tibet, then we lose all moral authority to talk about it any other place in the world.

It is many years of activism on this subject, and lots of documentation, but, as Mr. Smith mentioned, we know so many of the people firsthand, such as Harry Wu, who had been imprisoned. Why this is important tonight is because what the Chinese did, the most excruciating form of torture that an oppressor can exact on a political prisoner is to say to him or her nobody even knows you are here. They don't even care about you anymore. Society has passed this issue by. It's no longer important. Your family is out there suffering, you are here forgotten, but the world does not remember you.

Well, we are here tonight to say that the world does, a continuation of the work that Mr. Smith has referenced and others have referenced tonight about our calling to the attention of the world the names, the actual names of people who have been imprisoned for their beliefs, their religious beliefs, their political beliefs. This the resolution is very simple, and when we vote on it tomorrow, I hope we have an overwhelming vote.

What it says to the Chinese Government, as they prepare for the Olympics in harmony, "One World, One Dream: Free Tibet,'' is that they end the crackdown in Tibet, that they enter into substantive dialogue directly with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, that they allow independent monitors, journalists and others into Tibet and they also allow medical personnel. As was mentioned, people who have been beaten by the Chinese cannot receive medical assistance and they need that life-saving attention. That's what we are talking about here.

As for the accusation that that jackal, His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the instigator of violence in Tibet, started all of this, His Holiness called for and our delegation in Dharamsala associated ourselves with his call which was for an independent outside investigation as to how that all started. If they are going to accuse him, then they must be prepared to have an investigation to prove their point or to be proven wrong.

When we were there, I just want to close by saying, because it was very moving for us, when we got off the airplane and we were driving to Dharamsala for miles and miles and miles and miles, and when we got to Dharamsala to the center of town, we were greeted by many Tibetans flying American flags. We take the pledge in the morning, and any time we see the flag, it is an emotional experience for us. But to see these people who have had to struggle so much for freedom pay homage to our flag was quite a remarkable thing.

Here is one sign, which was my particular favorite. It said, ``Thank you for everything you have done for us so far.'' But all the American flags, the Tibetans flags, and, just again, it was a forest of flags there.

Mr. Holt referenced the children, when we went to the children's school, thousands of adorable children, many of them separated from their families, because that's the only way they could be raised in a Tibetan culture which is now restrained. Here are these children, they drew, they had thousands of these. I brought many of them home, an American flag on one side and on the other side a Tibetan flag, ``Free Tibet, Free Tibet.'' It goes on, ``Long live His Holiness the Dalai Lama.''

"Long live the friendship between the United States and Tibet,'' a friendship that began when Franklin Roosevelt sent His Holiness, when he was a very little boy, a watch. That watch had the rising of the sun, the months of the year, the phases of the moon, and it did tell time too. It was a very special fit, a gold watch. His Holiness has said that he took that watch with him when he left Tibet, imagine, a piece of America in that flight to freedom.

It is our wish that under the provisions of this legislation and the voices being heard all over the world now that those negotiations will take place between the Chinese Government and His Holiness the Dalai Lama. I, like many, have asked about the opening ceremonies. You don't want to boycott the Olympics, what about the opening ceremonies?

I think we should, since the Chancellor of Germany, Angela Merkel, has put that on the table, it should stay there. Our President should hold back any decision about going to those opening ceremonies until he sees what progress could be made, what leverage we could use to have those negotiations take place so that before too long and while His Holiness is still in good health he can return to Tibet and, indeed, the Tibetan people in their autonomous state of Tibet can be free.

I am very proud of this resolution. I couldn't be prouder of all the statements that were made this evening with all the passion and interest and history that went with it. I think it is a tribute to His Holiness, and I hope the vote tomorrow will be unequivocal about that. I am certain it will. I also they think that it is a tribute to our friend, Tom Lantos, who had been so faithful to this cause.

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Thank you, Mr. Smith.


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