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US officials visit Lhasa as China presents false reality of Tibetan life PDF Print E-mail
[23 November 2015] A US Congressional delegation visited Lhasa earlier this month, the first such visit to Tibet since 2008. The seven-member delegation said the trip had revealed certain truths but hoped it was a step towards resolving the situation. Reports have since emerged of Chinas efforts to present a false reality of Lhasa during the visit, by removing security personnel and forcing Tibetans to stage religious activities.

The visit, which included Beijing and Hong Kong, took place between 9 and 13 November and was led by Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic Party leader in the US House of Representatives and a vocal supporter of Tibet.

US delegation in LhasaThe delegation visited the Potala Palace (pictured right) and Sera monastery as well as schools and homes. There were also meetings with Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) officials, including the TARs Communist Party Secretary Chen Quanguo and the Chairman of the TARs Peoples Congress Padma Choling.

Upon their return to the USA, the delegation held a press conference to shed light on the situation in Tibet and report on discussions held with their Chinese counterparts.
 Alan Lowenthal (Representative for California) noted the delegation was surrounded by an entourage of Chinese security upon their arrival in Tibet. For the seven of us, there must have been 25 to 30 security people, he said.

Tim Walz (Minnesota) said the delegation was aware their visit was being tightly controlled and observed when youre being asked not to go somewhere, thats the important place.

Nancy PelosiMs Pelosi (pictured right) said, I considered the trip constructive, bridge building, and we want to continue building that bridge through reconciliation and clearer understanding.

Jim McGovern (Representative for Massachusetts and Chairman of the Congressional Human Rights Commission) concurred, saying, I dont think any of us came away feeling that the door was entirely closed. However, he revealed there had been heated exchanges between the US and Chinese government officials.

Jim McGovernMr McGovern (pictured right) criticised the language and characterisations that some Chinese officials used to describe Tibet and the Dalai Lama, adding, I believe that the Dalai Lama is part of the solution, not the problem, to resolving the issues confronting Tibetan autonomy.

Mr Walz felt that the conversations held had been part of a healthy dialogue which was the foundation of positive first steps.

However, overall the delegation members said they continue to be concerned about human rights and religious and cultural freedom in Tibet.

Mr McGovern said it was clear that the Chinese government has invested a great deal in Tibet but warned the investment should not come at the price of an entire culture. He added, You cannot confine a peoples culture and heritage, their very sense of identity, to a museum or a market of handicrafts.

Ms Pelosi also acknowledged Chinas investment in Tibet, but said, We are interested in whats happening in the minds of the children, and the education and the perpetuation of the culture there. She was also concerned that the mass resettlement of Han Chinese in Tibet is diluting that culture.

Mr McGovern provided three specific points of action for China on Tibet. One, allowing the United States to open a consulate in Lhasa, Tibet. Two, allowing more members of Congress, more journalists, more parliaments from other nations, and more people in general, including members in the Tibetan community here in the United States to travel freely in Tibet. And three, renewing the dialogue with the Dalai Lama to resolve long-standing issues of Tibet autonomy, religious practice, culture and heritage.

Chinas false Lhasa
Following the trip, details emerged of the Chinese governments attempts to stage manage what the US delegation saw in Lhasa. According to information received by Radio Free Asia (RFA), security personnel and equipment were hidden from view from the delegates and Tibetans were ordered to stage religious activities.

According to RFAs source in Tibet, Chinese officials in Lhasa ordered 10 members from each division of each township, and six members from each neighbourhood, to participate in staged religious activities. They were... forced to circumambulate around the religious sites, while the monasteries in the city were directed to organise religious activities during the three days.

It was also reported that metal detectors used to scan those entering the Jokhang temple and police checkpoints in the Barkhor district had been removed prior to the delegations arrival.

The RFA source said, Whatever they [the delegation] saw was all staged and part of a deceptive plan to paint the wrong picture, so it is important for all to know the truth.

Further reading: RFA I Reuters I NY Times I LA Times I VOA
Transcript of US delegations press conference

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