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Democratic Lawmakers make Rare Visit to Tibet, Argue with Chinese Officials

Democratic Lawmakers make Rare Visit to Tibet, Argue with Chinese Officials
November 18
11:48 2015

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi traveled to Tibet last week with a small group of Democratic lawmakers. Chinese President Xi Jinping asked Pelosi to “come see for yourself” after she raised congressional concerns regarding human rights.

Pelosi and her cadre were the first American lawmakers to visit Tibet since a period of anti-government disorder in 2008. The country has also been off-limits to most foreign media since then.

The photo above shows Nancy Pelosi as she shakes hands with Zhang Dejiang, chairman of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress. The photo was taken last Thursday in Beijing.

According to one member of the group, Nancy Pelosi and her cadre had “heated exchanges” with Chinese officials after advising Beijing to renew communication with the exiled Dalai Lama.

China considers the Dalai Lama a separatist after he fled to India in 1959 during an uprising against Chinese rule.

While he considers the visit to be an important gesture by China’s government, Rep. Jim McGovern of Massachusetts says “too often” they heard characterizations of the Dalai Lama and Tibet that echoed old prejudices.

“I believe that the Dalai Lama is part of the solution, not the problem, to resolving the issues confronting Tibetan autonomy,” says McGovern. He believes dialogue with the Dalai Lama is a crucial facet in addressing the Tibetan desire for more autonomy and the freedom to practice Buddhism.

The group also traveled to Beijing to meet with Chinese Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing. Topics of discussion included Tibetan reconciliation, cybersecurity, and climate change. At Pelosi’s insistence, the group also visited several religious sites.

“I considered the trip constructive, bridge-building, and we want to continue building that bridge through reconciliation and clearer understanding,” says Nancy Pelosi.

According to McGovern, the US delegation saw exactly what China wanted them to see in Tibet.

The group came away uncertain about China’s willingness to attempt Tibetan reconciliation, but not feeling that “the door was entirely closed to anything.” This includes the opening of a US consulate in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

In addition to McGovern and Pelosi, the group included Reps. Betty McCollum, Tim Walz, Joyce Beatty, Alan Lowenthal, and Ted Lieu.

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April Kuhlman

April Kuhlman

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