By John Isom, Dechen Tsering, and Giovanni Vassallo
Most people did not notice, but on Monday China's communist leadership invaded California, landing in Sacramento like a precision SWAT team. Their mission? Influence enough of our elected officials to kill a resolution in the California State Assembly.
And guess what: they are getting pretty close to mission accomplished.
What is China's leadership trying to kill? Its official name is Assembly Concurrent Resolution 6, or ACR 6, a resolution sponsored by Assembly Member Sam Blakeslee, (R-San Luis Obispo). The everyday name for ACR 6 is "The Dalai Lama and Tibet Awareness Day."
The resolution would recognize March 10 as "Dalai Lama and Tibet Awareness Day." It is non-binding, and would simply "educate Californians about the teachings of the Dalai Lama and his efforts to preserve the Tibetan culture," honor the Dalai Lama "for his contributions to world peace and leadership in seeking nonviolent solutions to international problems," and re-affirm that "freedom of expression, assembly, and religious beliefs are fundamental human rights that belong to all people," including of course, Tibetans.
World peace? Non-violence? Freedom of expression, assembly, and religion? What's not to like about Dalai Lama and Tibet Awareness Day?
Apparently, a lot.
If you read Xinhua, China's state-run news agency, you will learn that His Holiness the Dalai Lama is really the diabolical mastermind of something called the "Dalai Clique," a splittist group that seeks to wrest Tibet from the Chinese "Motherland." Indeed, the Dalai Lama apparently wants to undermine China's "liberation" of Tibet (that is, its invasion of Tibet in 1950 and occupation to date). According to China's appointed leader in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, the Dalai Lama is "a wolf in monk's clothes, a devil with a human face."
And so, concerned that our State Assembly members might think otherwise, China's leaders decided to invite our legislators to a private wine-and-dine party at the Chinese Consulate-just to set the record straight, of course.
Who is on China's A-List legislative team in California? It's a pretty diverse group, actually: assembly members willing to kill this resolution include Republicans and Democrats, liberals and conservatives; they're from the north and south, the coast and mountains, and our cities and rural communities. And often enough, these same lawmakers are, in other situations, long-time supporters of human rights. (You can see the whole list of Assembly members and how they voted on http://www.tibetjustice.org/
Given the Assembly's diversity, perhaps China's lobbying has created a rare instance of legislative bipartisanship. Of course, the truth is that China's invasion of our legislature is a major defeat for both democracy and human rights. The legislative process should be open to all concerned citizens. But do we really want the Communist Party of China dictating the content of our resolutions?
It doesn't have to be this way. Just last week the U.S. House of Representatives, led by California's own Nancy Pelosi, passed a resolution commemorating on March 10th the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan people's spontaneous uprising against China's occupation of their country. And despite the Chinese government's urgent mission to quash that resolution, it passed.
The vote? 422 to 1.
So, is there hope for California's non-binding resolution, or is China's invasion of the state Assembly complete? At this point, it's unclear.
The Assembly sent ACR 6 back to the Rules Committee, where it may well die a slow death. But the Assembly will now have to hold public hearings on the merits of the resolution, allowing all of our citizens to contribute.
And let's be clear: these are our public hearings, not China's-not least because China can't have it both ways. When citizens around the world raise their voices against China's police-state crackdowns in Tibet, against imprisonment and torture of innocent bystanders, or the crushing of freedom to practice religion in Tibet, China tells the world that we should mind our own business. Tibet, they say, is an internal matter.
Yet by what measure of democracy can China's policies in Tibet, a country under occupation now for more than 50 years, remain an "internal matter," while at the same time China's one-party dictatorship is free to meddle in California's "internal affairs?"
Apparently, a majority of California's Assembly members continue to believe that China's brand of wining-and-dining democracy is the new party line.
Welcome to the California legislature's Halls of Shame.John Isom is executive director of Tibet Justice Center in Berkeley, Dechen Tsering is president of the Tibetan Association of Northern California, and Giovanni Vassallo is president of Committee of 100 for Tibet.The views expressed in this piece are that of the author and the publication of the piece on this website does not necessarily reflect their endorsement by the website.