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Hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - "Religious Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights in Asia: Status of Implementation of the Tibetan Policy Act, Block Burmese JADA Act, and North Korean Human Rights Act"


Location: Washington, DC

U.S. Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, made the following opening statement at a hearing titled "Religious Freedom, Democracy, and Human Rights in Asia: Status of Implementation of the Tibetan Policy Act, Block Burmese JADA Act, and North Korean Human Rights Act:"

"Today, we are here to discuss the dark clouds of oppression that hang ever heavier over the peoples of Tibet, Burma, and North Korea.

"I was proud to be a co-sponsor, with our late Chairman and strong human rights advocate, Tom Lantos, of the Tibetan Policy Act, and an original co-sponsor of the Block Burmese JADE Act. I was also privileged to author the reauthorization of the North Korean Human Rights Act enacted into law in 2008.

"Congress has long sought to address the suffering of the people of Tibet, Burma and North Korea through legislation to ease, to some degree, their pain.

"Let us now examine the Executive Branch's track record in implementing these Acts. There is a common thread that leads to a massive spider web of human rights and religious freedom violations. At the core sits China. As we commemorate the twenty-second anniversary of the Tiananmen Square Massacre on Saturday, we must never forget those who fell as the tanks crushed the democratic aspirations of the Chinese people. We must never forget that the heirs to this shameful Tiananmen legacy, and their comrades in bloodlust, continue to subjugate by the sword not only the Chinese people, but also the peoples of Tibet, Burma and North Korea. Whatever the motive, a rising China is at the center of this trio of tyranny which casts a dark shadow over the otherwise optimistic projections for Asia's future.

"Turning to the three laws we are examining today, since 2002, when the "Tibetan Policy Act' first called for the establishment of a U.S. official presence in the capital of Tibet, there has been absolutely zero diplomatic progress. The State Department must make it perfectly clear to China's diplomats that there will be no more Chinese consulates opened in the U.S. -- not in Atlanta, not in Boston, not in Honolulu -- until the stars and stripes are flying proudly over a U.S. diplomatic facility in Tibet.

"It is also regrettable that the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, a position created by the Tibetan Policy Act, could not appear as a witness today to address the oversight concerns of Congress with regard to the Act.

"I now would like to turn to the "Block Burmese JADE Act.' I understand that the Administration has finally put forward the name of Derek Mitchell to serve as the Special Representative and Policy Coordinator for Burma, a position created by the Act, and that he is awaiting Senate confirmation. I would like our Administration witnesses to explain why it took almost 2 ½ years to name this official to a key position legislatively mandated by Congress. I would also ask the Administration witnesses to elaborate on the approach to the Burmese junta and if the Administration remains committed to pursuing what it calls a policy of "pragmatic engagement'--a policy I strongly disagree with.

"Another key component of the Burma law was the prohibition on the import of Burmese gem stones -- rubies and jade. A Government Accountability Office (GAO) report of September 30, 2009, stated: "U.S. agencies have taken some steps but have not shown that they are effectively restricting imports of Burmese-origin rubies, jadeite, and related jewelry while allowing imports of non-Burmese-origin goods.' If we could work so effectively with African countries and our allies to ensure a block on importation of "blood diamonds' during the conflicts in Africa, one has to question why it would seem we have not made the same efforts with blocking imports of Burmese rubies.

"Finally, let me address the North Korean Human Rights Act. It is especially appropriate that the Special Envoy for North Korean Human Rights Issues, a position created by the Act, is here today. We welcome Dr. Bob King, a long-time trusted advisor to Chairman Lantos and former Democrat Chief of Staff for this Committee.

"The North Korea Human Rights Act specifically clarified any confusion on the eligibility of North Koreans for refugee or asylum consideration in the United States. While the vast majority of North Korean refugees will continue to be resettled in South Korea for historic, linguistic and cultural reasons, the Act spells out that the U.S. doors remain open to North Koreans fleeing savage oppression. Only about 120 North Korean refugees have made it to the United States in the seven years since enactment of this legislation. That raises questions about the State Department's purposefulness.

"Another issue addressed in the Act is food assistance to North Korea. The Act is clear in stipulating that "such assistance also should be provided and monitored so as to minimize the possibility that such assistance could be diverted to political or military use.' I share the concerns of my Senate colleagues in their May 20th letter to Secretary Clinton, that any food aid provided would likely be used for propaganda purposes "to mark the hundredth anniversary of the birth of North Korean founder."

"It should be clear that there would be strong opposition in the Congress to any attempt to provide food assistance paid for by the American taxpayer for more bread and circuses in Pyongyang.

"I now turn to the distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Berman, for his opening remarks."

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