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Helping Tibet Again – Progress In Action

15 May 2008, by Brian in Culture, People

To follow up Kim’s post about what we can all do to help out the situation in Tibet… we called and emailed our representatives and senators and now there is legislation drafted in the US Senate for action to be taken! I haven’t read the full bill yet, so who knows what kind of teeth are in it, but this is better than nothing, or worse, tacit approval of Chinese military action. Check out the response from our two Washington State Senators:

Today I received the following email from Senator Maria Cantwell:

Thank you for contacting me about Tibet . I appreciate hearing your views on this important issue.

Like you, I am concerned about the ongoing suppression of basic human rights and political freedoms in Tibet . The United States was founded on the fundamental ideal that every individual is endowed with certain inalienable rights, including life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Central to this ideal is the notion that these rights are not exclusively for Americans, but that they must be recognized and protected for all people. Although we have achieved tremendous progress in the unending struggle to ensure the protection of these basic human and political rights for individuals in our own country, frequent human rights violations are an unfortunate reality in many parts of the world, including Tibet . As a global leader, the United States must be vigilant in identifying human rights abuses wherever they exist, and we must be committed to improving the protections of life and liberty for all people.

Following my recent trip to China and South Korea , I joined eight of my colleagues to introduce a bipartisan resolution condemning the violence in Tibet . The resolution, which was passed in the Senate on April 9, 2008, also calls on China to open substantive dialogue with His Holiness, the Fourteenth Dalai Lama of Tibet. The resolution was introduced in the wake of protests that have swept across Tibet . Chinese and Tibetan sources report dozens of fatalities and the arrest of more than 1,000 protesters in the Tibet Autonomous Region and surrounding Tibetan areas of China . During my visit to China in March, I was immensely concerned about the situation in Tibet . In order to reach its full potential as a global leader, China must respect human rights and religious freedom of all its citizens. By opening a dialogue with the Dalai Lama, China can make progress toward cultural and religious freedom.

I firmly believe that the United States must play a lead role in multilateral organizations that are dedicated to protecting human rights, such as the United Nations, and that the issue of human rights must be a central focus of our bilateral relationships with foreign countries. In the U.S. Senate, I will work with my colleagues to support efforts to improve the protection of human rights in Tibet and around the world.

Finally, you may be interested in signing up for my weekly update for Washington state residents. Every Monday, I provide a brief outline about my work in the Senate and issues of importance to Washington State . If you are interested in subscribing to this update, please visit my website at http://cantwell.senate.gov . Please do not hesitate to contact me in the future if I can be of further assistance.

Sincerely,
Maria Cantwell
United States Senator

Then I received another one from Senator Patty Murray!

Thank you for contacting me regarding Tibet. I appreciate hearing from you and share your concern for this important issue.

I have numerous objections to China’s actions, internationally and within its borders. I believe the peoples of the world are entitled to basic human rights, including economic, social and cultural rights. The United States has a responsibility to uphold the dignity and worth of human beings, and our country’s powerful role in world affairs puts it in a unique position to better the state of humanity.

I am very concerned about the recent violence in Tibet. As you know, in March, Tibetans launched a series of peaceful demonstrations to mark an important anniversary of Tibetan resistance to Chinese rule. Although the demonstrations began peacefully, the situation became violent as the Chinese police intervened. As a result, violence spread beyond the borders of the Tibetan Autonomous Region. It is hard to accurately assess the number of innocent Tibetans killed, injured, and arrested, but the incident has caused much alarm and global calls for restraint.

In response to these events, I joined Senator Diane Feinstein (D-CA) in introducing and passing S. Res. 504, a resolution that condemns the violence in Tibet and calls for restraint by the government of China and the people of Tibet. The resolution calls for dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama, the release of peaceful prisoners, and for the Chinese government to honor its commitment to allow free access to international journalists in Tibet. In response to this and other global calls, the Chinese government has taken steps toward direct negotiations with the Dalai Lama, agreeing to talk with his aides.

Despite this disheartening series of events, I continue to believe constructive engagement on all counts-governmental, economic, and cultural-offers the best opportunity we have to bring China into the global community of nations. For numerous reasons, despite our frustrations, we must continue to engage the Chinese. Certainly, Tibet and the preservation of Tibetan culture should be priority issues for the United States.

Again, thank you for taking the time to contact me and I encourage you to keep in touch. Please know that I will keep your thoughts in mind as I continue to monitor this situation, and related issues come before the 110th Congress.

I hope all is well in Seattle.

It’s not groundbreaking legislation, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’ve sent letters before and received form responses, but this is the first time I’ve ever heard back that some real action was taken as a result. I know the compelling nature of these events was important, and my letter to these senators alone was not the driving factor, but I have to believe that the overwhelming response they must have gotten from their constituents must have played a role, and it feels damn good to have made a difference. Now let’s see how the Chinese government respond to the increasing pressure and measure the improvement in human rights in Tibet.

If you also sent letters, thanks for your help! If you haven’t heard back from your senator(s) yet, know that something has been done.

Thug-je-che!

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