DHARMSALA, India, May 10, (AP): As President Donald Trump appears to be warming to China, a bipartisan group from the US House of Representatives took aim Wednesday at one of Beijing’s sore spots: Tibet. Rep. Nancy Pelosi accused China of using economic leverage to crush Tibetan calls for autonomy. During a meeting with Tibetans and the Dalai Lama at his main temple in the Indian hill town of Dharmsala, she urged the community not to give up. “You will not be silenced,” said Pelosi, a California Democrat. “The brutal tactics of the Chinese government to erase race, culture and language of Tibetan people challenges the conscience of the world. We will meet that challenge.” The visit by Pelosi and seven other US representatives irritated Beijing, where a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry reiterated China’s stance that the Dalai Lama is a dangerous separatist.
“The visit by US congressmen to Dharmsala and their meeting with the Dalai Lama has sent a very wrong signal to the outside world about supporting Tibetan independence, which violates the US government’s commitment not to support independence for Tibet,” the spokesman, Geng Shuang, told reporters. He said Beijing had complained to the US government over the matter, and urged the American representatives “to stop any kind of contact with the Dalai Lama, and take immediate measures to eliminate the negative impact.” But Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner assured that the US Congress stood in “solidarity with the cause of the Tibetan people to be free from the repression that has been put upon them for a very, very long time from Beijing.” “Without justice there is no freedom,” said the Wisconsin Republican, noting that the US Constitution has prohibited government restrictions on the free exercise of religion for more than 220 years.
“Today there is no justice in Tibet for Tibetans, for their religion, for their culture, for their language, and for His Holiness The Dalai Lama. … This is a civil rights issue.” China says the Himalayan region has been part of the country for more than seven centuries. Many Tibetans insist they were essentially independent for most of that time. At least 148 Tibetans have set themselves on fire since 2009 to protest China’s rule. In many cases, China has offered aid packages to foreign governments on the condition that they support China’s position on issues such as Tibet and Taiwan, the self-governing island that Beijing has pledged to take control of, by force if necessary. Mongolia said in December that it would no longer allow visits by the Dalai Lama after a recent trip by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader led China to suspend talks on a major loan.