A group of Chinese legislators from Tibet, while on a recent visit to the US, called on their American counterparts to refrain any contact with the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader.
Their visit came only a few days after the US ambassador to India, Kenneth Juster, met the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India, where the Tibetan exile government is located, and expressed hopes that the spiritual leader would make another trip to the US.
The Dalai Lama, 82, gave a public talk at the University of California in San Diego last June but has cancelled most of his overseas trips for this year primarily because of health concerns.
During their six-day visit to Washington and San Francisco that ended on Monday, the Chinese delegation – led by Baima Wangdui, Communist Party secretary of Lhasa, capital of Tibet – met US Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska, and Representatives Darin LaHood, Republican of Illinois; Rick Larsen, Democrat of Washington; and Jim McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, who have been critical of how the Chinese government has handled human rights issues in Tibet.
A congressional resolution, co-sponsored by McGovern, established March 10, 2018, as “Tibetan Rights Day”. The date memorialises the beginning of Tibet’s uprising against Beijing’s rule in 1959, and the resolution urged the Chinese authorities to respect Tibetan human rights and religious freedom.
Beijing took control of Tibet in 1950, and described the move as a “peaceful liberation”. In March 1959, the Dalai Lama, then 23, fled to India with his followers and has lived as a refugee since.
In Washington, Baima Wangdui told the US lawmakers and other officials that the Tibet issue was “extremely sensitive” to Beijing, and that he hoped the US would not permit any more visits by the Dalai Lama or support any activities organised by anti-China separatists, which could sour Sino-US relations, according to a report from the state-run Xinhua news agency.
Such an honor to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, a compassionate leader and a symbol of courage for millions. So inspired by his views on how the inner peace of individuals can spread and bring broader peace to mankind. #Dharamshala #USinNorthIndia pic.twitter.com/JOes4Diwiz
— Ken Juster (@USAmbIndia) May 6, 2018
McGovern described the meeting with the Chinese delegation as “cordial” but said he spoke again of his concerns about Beijing’s treatment of the Tibetans.
“I urged them to re-start the dialogue with Tibet, and to permit His Holiness the Dalai Lama to return home, if he so desires,” McGovern told the South China Morning Post. “I was disappointed that there didn’t seem to be any flexibility on the government’s side, on these or related issues.
“China is a great country that has taken important steps to reduce poverty. But in the end, people must be allowed to live according to their identity and beliefs. Unfortunately, nothing I heard indicated progress on that key point.”
Larsen and LaHood, co-chairmen of the House of Representatives’ bipartisan US-China Working Group, issued a statement saying: “We appreciated hearing from … Baima Wangdui and the entire delegation on the future of Tibet, the improvement of people’s lives through clean energy development and positive changes to living conditions in the region. We look forward to continuing this dialogue on the social and economic development of Tibet.”
Since 2009, China has regularly sent its Tibetan delegation to the US to reiterate Beijing’s stance on sovereignty and territorial issues.
A recent anniversary event marking the Dalai Lama’s 60th year in exile was originally arranged in India’s capital, New Delhi, but was moved to Dharamsala, as the Indian government tried to avoid angering China, which sees the Dalai Lama as a separatist. Only India’s culture and tourism minister, Mahesh Sharma, attended the “Thank You India” event on March 31.