Pelosi Floor Speech in Support of the Tibet Policy Act of 2019
Washington, D.C. – Speaker Nancy Pelosi delivered remarks on the Floor of the House of Representatives in support of H.R. 4331, the Tibet Policy Act of 2019, bipartisan legislation to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity. Below are the Speaker’s remarks:
Speaker Pelosi. I thank the – Madam Speaker, thank you. I thank the gentleman for yielding and for bringing this legislation to the Floor. I'm pleased to follow the distinguished Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Mr. McCaul. One of the joys of my service in Congress is to work in a bipartisan way on issues that relate to respecting human rights and religious freedom throughout the world.
Thank you, Mr. McCaul, for your leadership, and that of Mr. Chairman, Eliot Engel, for his leadership in facilitating this all through the Committee. Thank you, Mr. Phillips, for giving us this access to the Floor today.
I rise in support of the Tibetan Policy Act of 2019: strong, bipartisan and urgently-needed legislation to strengthen America’s commitment to the Tibetan people and their right to safeguard their distinct identity.
I salute Chairman Jim McGovern, the Chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China and Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission. Thank you, Mr. McGovern, for being a leading voice in the Congress and in the country for human rights.
Thank you, Congressman Chris Smith. Chris and I go back decades. He's the Ranking Member of the Congressional Executive Commission on China and also the Co-Chair of the Lantos Commission. I worked with him for three decades to hold China accountable for its oppression, as well as for promoting human rights throughout the world. Thank you, Mr. Smith, for your leadership.
I also want to acknowledge Senator Marco Rubio for his leadership in the United States Senate. As we have discussed, he has been, on some of the issues we talked about, supporting the people of Hong Kong, the Uighurs and now this important legislation. Thank you, Senator Marco Rubio, for your leadership, courage and for facilitating some of this legislation through the Senate.
For many of us, the fight to protect human rights in China has been a long-term commitment – as I acknowledged with Mr. Smith, as well as Frank Wolf, our former Member who worked with Chris Smith so closely.
In 1987, when I first came to Congress, I heard Tom Lantos – I mentioned the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission – Tom Lantos invited me to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama, to be in a small meeting with him. I heard His Holiness first describe his ‘Middle Way Approach’ for Tibet, and it was an approach about autonomy, not about independence. So when the Chinese say that it's about independence, that's not what it ever has been about as far as His Holiness's presentation on Capitol Hill, or to the world.
Among other priorities, he proposed that Tibet be allowed to be a zone of peace, that the Tibetan people's human rights be respected and Tibet's natural environment be safeguarded.
He said, ‘The Tibetan people want once again to be free to develop culturally, intellectually, economically and spiritually and to exercise basic democratic freedoms.’ That, I just want to acknowledge because he uses the, he talks about Tibet’s natural environment.
His Holiness was the first Nobel Laureate, the first winner of the Nobel Peace Prize to have presented in the testimonial his protection for the environment. He’s been there for a long time. For many of us, the fight has been a long time.
Twenty years after that meeting, in 2007 and in 2008, as Speaker of the House, I had the privilege of visiting Dharamsala. Our delegation was blessed to be received by the Dalai Lama and we had the opportunity to see the aspirations of the Tibetan people firsthand, especially in the eyes of the Tibetan schoolchildren we met.
It was a bipartisan delegation. We spoke to big crowds waving American flags. It was a beautiful thing. In order for – but it’s important to note, the children, the beautiful Tibetan children – in order for their children to be raised in the tradition of the Tibetan language, culture and religion, parents had to send them from Tibet to India because, sadly, Tibetan aspirations for observing their culture were under threat because of brutal repression in Beijing. That was 2007. Then, in – no – 2008. That was in 2008.
Then, in 2015, along with Chairman McGovern, we, he and I, led a first Congressional Delegation in decades to enter Tibet and Jokhang Temple and Potala Palace and Sera Monastery. We again witnessed the deep faith of the Tibetan people and the beauty of their culture.
We also saw the Potemkin Village-like posturing of the Chinese regime. For example, they said we're going to invite you to a family's home so you can see how Tibetan families thrive in their own cultural language and religion. So, we would go to the home, and you probably have never seen this in anybody's home, but they had a gigantic picture of President Xi in the living room. And then they talked about their grandchildren and the daughter had taken them to school and that's why they weren't there. So when the daughter then came back from so-called taking them to school, we said, ‘How are the children?’ She said, ‘Children, what children?’ But they had these fake visits to homes that they were showing us how they were respecting Tibetan culture.
And then in 19 – years later in 2017, I had another bipartisan delegation, headed another bipartisan delegation, this time to Nepal and India where we were blessed to be received by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, again. We saw once more the beautiful children, again, waving American flags, but we're no closer to autonomy for Tibet.
Today, we are here to pass the Tibet Policy Act. In 2002, Congress passed the Tibet Policy Act to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity, as His Holiness had suggested. But in the years since, China has cruelly accelerated its outrageous aggression against the Tibetan people.
As the CECC, the Congressional Executive Committee on China, concluded in its most recent report, Beijing is increasing ‘sinicization’ efforts and restricting religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists including with mandatory political education for religious leaders, large-scale evictions from Buddhist monasteries and by replacing images of His Holiness the Dalai Lama with past and current party leaders.
The report also concludes that Beijing is expanding a mass surveillance regime to intimidate Tibetans and prevent them from practicing their culture and observing their religion – well, we could see the cameras every place we went, especially near the monasteries. Pursuing massive infrastructure projects – well, I’ve seen that over the years and we fought some of this in the World Bank, then, with Chris Cox and others here, then, on the Republican side of the aisle, working together. Pursuing massive infrastructure projects that violate the social, economic and cultural rights of Tibetans, forcing scores of families from their homes and even detaining monks for peaceful protests. And tightening access to Tibet for international visitors; international journalists have stated that the isolation of Tibet is worse than North Korea, allowing the Chinese government to conceal human rights abuses and environmentally damaging large-scale projects.
Today, the House is taking action to update and strengthen the [Tibet] Policy Act to address these growing threats.
We are supporting the Tibetan people’s right to religious freedom and genuine autonomy by formally establishing as U.S. policy that the Tibetan Buddhist community has the exclusive right to choose its religious leaders, including a future 15th Dalai Lama. Imagine that the Chinese government should think that they should be choosing the next Dalai Lama of the Tibetan Buddhists.
We are sending Beijing a clear signal that they will be held accountable for interfering in Tibet’s religious and cultural affairs: making clear that Chinese officials who meddle in the process of recognizing a new Dalai Lama will be subject to targeted sanctions, including those in the Global Magnitsky Act.
We are protecting China’s environmental – excuse me, we are protecting Tibet, which is in China – we are protecting Tibet’s environmental and cultural rights: working with international governments and the business community to ensure the self-sufficiency of the Tibetan people and protect the environment and water resources on the Tibetan Plateau. It is really important to sustainability of our planet.
This legislation also deploys America’s diplomatic weight to encourage a genuine dialogue between Tibetan leaders and Beijing. It is unacceptable that the Chinese government still refuses to enter into a dialogue with Tibetan leaders.
The Congress will – and must – continue to take action to hold China accountable for its many abuses, which sadly target so many, including the Uighur community – in which Mr. McCaul and Mr. Rubio, in a bipartisan way, we have acted upon – which faces horrific human rights abuses, including forced sterilizations and the mass incarceration of millions. This is happening as we speak; millions of people subjected to this in China.
And, as we know, the current party secretary of the Uighur Autonomous Region, Secretary Chen, previously served as the top party official of the Tibet Autonomous Region. So repressive was he, they rewarded him by sending him to the region, the Uighur Autonomous Region. That’s so sad.
We also see human rights abuses, as we know, in Hong Kong, where millions are fighting for the democratic freedoms they were promised, and on the mainland, where journalists, human rights lawyers, Christians and democracy advocates languish in jail cells.
Today, in the face of rising oppression by China, Congress has an urgent responsibility to act. As Sikyong Dr. Lobsang Sangay, the President of the Central Tibetan Administration, has said, ‘the very survival of Tibetan culture and identity is in peril.’
If we don’t speak out for human rights in China because of commercial interests, then we lose all moral authority to speak out for human rights in any other place in the world.
And I’ve said on this Floor, ‘To those who take the repressive Chinese government’s side, we ask: what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and suffers the loss of his soul?’
I urge a strong vote for this legislation and support the Tibetan people as they seek to defend their culture, their identity and their pursuit of a future of freedom and dignity.
I thank, again, the Members of the Foreign Affairs Committee for giving us the opportunity to talk about Tibet on the Floor of the House today. It is a challenge to – repression in Tibet by the Chinese government is a challenge to the conscience of the world. Let's take this step to address that challenge.
I yield back the balance of my time.