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Tibetan issue: US flays China, hails India

By Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC
March 11, 2009 03:19 IST
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Nancy Pelosi, Speaker of the US House of Representatives, has lauded India for offering the Dalai Lama and his supporters' continuous exile in Dharamsala since they fled their homeland in the wake of the Chinese onslaught calling it 'a testament to the close ties between the Indian and Tibetan people'.

Speaking at a reception on Capitol Hill on Monday commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's exile from Tibet, Pelosi said that "fifty years ago today, the people of Lhasa assembled together and called for the Chinese army to cease its repression and to leave Tibet. Today, we remember that day and honour the many brave Tibetans who have sacrificed so dearly in their fight for freedom."

"Chief among them is His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was forced into exile in India," she said.

Pelosi told the assembled gathering and many lawmakers who year after year have approved unanimous resolutions condemning the Chinese repression of the Tibetans that "the welcoming of India of the Tibetan refugee community is a testament to the close ties between the Indian and Tibetan people."

"It's a friendship rooted in a mutual admiration for the philosophy of non-violence as practiced by Mahatma Gandhi and the Dalai Lama," she added.

Pelosi recalled, "Last year, I was proud to lead a Congressional delegation to India where we were able to meet with His Holiness in Dharamsala," and that "this visit -- by coincidence or karma -- occurred after the protests that swept across the Tibetan plateau and the subsequent crackdown by Chinese authorities."

"When our delegation arrived, the roads were lined with thousands of Tibetan monks, nuns and children waving Americans and Tibetan flags. We heard firsthand accounts from former prisoners describing the harsh conditions they endured for only demanding the right to express themselves freely," she told the audience.

"We said at the time that the situation in Tibet challenges the conscience of the world and that if freedom-loving people do not speak out for human rights in China and Tibet, then we lose the moral authority to talk about it in any other place in the world."

Slamming Beijing, Pelosi said, "For the last year, Tibet has been under martial law and the human rights situation continues to worsen," and added that in last week's annual human rights report issued by the US Department of State, it had noted that the Chinese government's "human rights record in Tibetan areas of China deteriorated severely during the year."

"Sadly, there has been no progress in the discussions between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama," she lamented.

Thus, Pelosi said, "It is clear that the Chinese government has not won the hearts and minds of the Tibetan people, but rather, the Tibetan people have accumulated legitimate grievances from decades of repressive policies."

"They have been economically marginalized in their own land, imprisoned for peacefully expressing their views, and barred from practicing their religion without government interference."

Pelosi said, "It's long past time for Beijing to make progress on a solution that respects the human rights of every Tibetan," and asserted that "The US Congress continues to be bedrock of support for the Tibetan people."

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Aziz Haniffa in Washington, DC