DHARAMSHALA, June 6: On the eve of presidents Barack Obama and Xi Jinping’s maiden presidential level summit, leaders of a US Congress commission have called on the Obama Administration to embark on a fresh and bold approach to improving conditions in Tibet.
The Congressmen made their remarks at a June 5 hearing on "Human rights in Tibet" summoned by the Congress' Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission.
Commission Co-Chair Frank Wolf (R-VA), while labeling the situation inside Tibet as one of “cultural genocide” said the US needs to “do something bold and different" on Tibet.
He called for the next Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues to "bring a freshness to the issue" and urged the State Department to consult the Tibetan community on who they think would be appropriate for the post of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issue.
Commission Co-Chair Jim McGovern (D-MA) took note of the perceived "lack of urgency, lack of imagination" from the Obama Administration on the Tibet issue.
He further urged the Administration to “think out of the box” and formulate “more imaginative policy" on Tibet, while calling on like-minded governments to meet regularly to explore solutions to the Tibet problem.
Charlotte Oldham-Moore, Senior Advisor, Office of the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights represented the Obama Administration at the hearing.
She gave a brief overview of the Administration's efforts to promote dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama, which have been stalled since 2010.
She also spoke about the Administration’s efforts in urging Chinese authorities to respect the cultural and linguistic heritage of Tibetans and discussed the Administration's direct engagement with the India based Central Tibetan Administration, headed by elected representatives of the Tibetan people.
The hearing on "Human rights in Tibet" focused “specifically on the increasing number of self-immolations and the Chinese government policies that have resulted in this tragic situation.”
A hearing notice issued by the Commission stated that since 2009, “a total of 118 Tibetans have set themselves on fire to protest the ongoing suppression of religious and cultural rights.”
“The Chinese government has responded aggressively with harsh sentencing and torture for those suspected of involvement.”
Other witnesses at the hearing included Sophie Richardson, China Director, Human Rights Watch, Bhuchung K. Tsering, Interim President, International Campaign for Tibet and Tsering Kyi, Tibetan writer, blogger analyst and relative of a self-immolator.
In his testimony, Bhuchung Tsering, recommended that President Obama reiterates the long-standing US position on dialogue and sustaining Tibet's cultural heritage and calls on China to address the "deep underlying issues" that are leading to the self-immolations in Tibet.
President Obama will be meeting with President Xi for bilateral talks on June 7 and 8 to discuss a number of issues at the sprawling Sunnylands estate in Southern California.