VIDEO: Key Moments from CECC Hearing “Tibet ‘From All Angles’”

(Washington)— U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), chairman of the bipartisan Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC), and Representative Chris Smith (R-NJ), cochair, held a hearing on Tibet last week to examine the Chinese government’s repression of the Tibetan people’s religion, language and culture and to explore available policy options.

Witnesses included filmmaker Dhondup Wangchen, a recently escaped former political prisoner; Tenzin Dorjee, a Commissioner on the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom; and Michael J. Green, Senior Vice President for Asia at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) and former Senior Director for Asian Affairs at the National Security Council. CECC Commissioners previously advocated for the release of Dhondup Wangchen, urging the Administration to seek his freedom and reunification with his family living in the U.S.

Witnesses urged Members of Congress and the Administration to focus on the release of Tibetan political and religious prisoners in addition to advocating for religious freedom broadly for Tibetan Buddhists. Witnesses also urged the Administration to nominate a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues at the State Department, as mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, to press for a more consistent diplomatic presence in Lhasa, and called on Congress to pass the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act (S.821/H.R. 1872).

CECC Commissioners Senator Steve Daines (R-MT) and Representative Ted Lieu (D-CA) also attended the hearing.

Partial transcripts and links to videos of some of the hearing’s key moments are below. Statements by the Chairs and witness testimonies can be found on the CECC’s website.

Opening statements from the chairs can be found here: Senator Rubio and Representative Smith. The hearing webcast is archived and can be viewed via a link on the CECC’s YouTube page.

VIDEO: Senator Rubio welcomes Dhondup Wangchen to America

Rubio: “Mr. Wangchen, we welcome you to America. We welcome you to safety and to freedom and we stand with you in working towards the day when the Tibetan people are afforded these same protections.” Watch Dhondup Wangchen’s full testimony

VIDEO: Representative Smith says Tibet should matter in U.S.-China relations

Smith: “In our dealings with the Chinese government, Members of Congress and the Administration should affirm the peaceful desires of the Tibetan people for greater autonomy and freedoms within China. We should stress that China’s policies create needless grievances and the repressive policies only hurt China’s international prestige.  We should urge sustained dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives. We should demand open access to Tibet by journalists and diplomats, and we should raise the cases of prisoners of conscience with Chinese officials. U.S. leadership on these issues is critical, because our allies in Europe and Asia can often be bullied by Chinese threats of economic boycotts. We must demonstrate that Tibet matters, human rights matter, and religious freedom matters to U.S.-China relations, to U.S. global interests, and to China’s future stability and prosperity.”

VIDEO: Senator Rubio asks Dhondup Wangchen whether his treatment in prison improved because of international advocacy on his case

Wangchen: “I did not know about a widespread campaign on my behalf, but I did know that there were people trying to work on my behalf. The Chinese authorities themselves would come and ask me, ‘Why is there so much interest in your cause outside?’ From my own experience any voice raised on behalf of political prisoners has a positive impact on their lives… I could see from the attitude of prison officials or of other prisoners that their attitudes changed when there is international interests in issues like mine.”

VIDEO: Senator Daines asks Michael Green about the importance of U.S. diplomatic presence in Tibetan areas

Green: “The crackdown you have heard about is happening as transparency is being closed.  It is not just journalists or diplomats; it is also American scholars of Tibet who are being denied access.  If we had a consulate in Lhasa, if we had a presence there, it would do a number of things.  It would allow academic exchanges, because that is part of what consulates do.  It would allow officers from the U.S. State Department to monitor the cases of individual political detainees and to monitor trials.  It would allow them to provide accurate reporting of what is happening to the Tibetan people.  And, as I mentioned in my testimony, with respect to the massive infrastructure and military program in the Himalayan plateau—that is destabilizing, that is fundamentally raising tensions—it is an area where we need presence and access, not just because of the Tibetan people’s aspirations, but because of the negatively spiraling geopolitics between China and India.”

VIDEO: Tenzin Dorjee makes recommendations for U.S. Policy

Dorjee: “Along with designating China as a Country of Particular Concern (CPC) for its violations of religious freedom—with specific sanctions associated with that designation-Congress should: 1) pass the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act.  USCIRF thanks Senator Rubio for sponsoring this bill.  2) Send regular Congressional delegations focused on religious freedom and related human rights to China and request to visit Tibet, and advocate on behalf of individual prisoners of conscience and persons whom the Chinese government has detained or disappeared, as well as their family members.  The U.S. Government should: 1) Appoint a qualified and experienced individual to serve as the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues at the U.S. Department of State, as mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002.  2) Use targeted tools against specific officials and agencies identified as having participated in or being responsible for human rights abuses, including particularly severe violations of religious freedom; these tools include the ‘specially designated nationals’ list maintained by the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control, visa denials under section 604(a) of IRFA and the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act, and asset freezes under the Global Magnitsky Act.”

VIDEO: Senator Rubio says “terminology matters”—as China seeks to redefine what human rights means and reorder global affairs (Michael Green responds)

Green: “I could not agree with you more.  I have written about this as an academic and in policy terms.  Xi Jinping tried to convince the Obama Administration to endorse a concept called the ‘New Model of Great Power Relations.’ That to avoid conflict, the U.S. and China had to have a condominium as major powers. In this formulation Japan, India, Korea, and Australia—all democracies—were second-tier powers. Some people in the Obama Administration embraced this. The Chinese then tried to get the Trump White House to support a ‘Global Strategic Partnership,’ suggesting that China and the U.S. would arbitrate issues—no values—and Japan, India, and the other powers were secondary. One of the things I find compelling about the Administration’s ‘Free and Open Indo-Pacific’ concept is that it is a complete rebuttal of this by design—it was well received by India, Japan, and Australia.  So words matter a lot.  Within Asia, as the ‘New Model of Great Power Relations’ started to gain currency with some senior officials in DC, it had a major effect on how Japan, Korea, Australia, and Vietnam viewed our staying power and our commitment to our values.”