As Tibetans mark 60 years since the Dalai Lama was forced into exile, Tibetans from the Tibetan Association of Ithaca will travel to Washington D.C. on March 24, 2019 to lobby members of Congress for support.
Two Tibetan-Americans from this community will visit the nation’s capital to meet with the offices of their elected representatives as part of Tibet Lobby Day, an annual event organized by the International Campaign for Tibet, a D.C.-based advocacy group.
The Tibetans from this area are scheduled to meet with the offices of Representative Tom Reed and Senator Chuck Schumer and Kristin Gillibrand on March 25 and March 26, 2019.
“We look forward to this opportunity to speak with our elected leaders and their staff about the important issues facing our community,” said Mr. Tenzin Lodoe, a member of the local Tibetan community.
Those issues include appointing a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues in the State Department; providing funding for Tibetan programs; and pressuring the Chinese government to engage the Dalai Lama’s envoys in negotiations on Tibet’s future.
The timing of this year’s Lobby Day is significant: this month marks the 60th anniversary of China taking control of Tibet.
On March 17, 1959, His Holiness the Dalai Lama was forced to flee Tibet after an apparent attempt by Chinese troops to abduct or kill him. After a perilous journey, he reached safety in exile in India on March 31.
In the six decades since, the Dalai Lama has not been allowed to return to Tibet, and Chinese rule there has decimated Tibetans’ rich culture and religion while depriving them of their most basic rights.
Last month, the watchdog group Freedom House rated Tibet as the second-least free place on Earth, behind only Syria and worse than even North Korea.
Over the past 10 years, more than 150 Tibetans have self-immolated, lighting their own bodies on fire in a tragic act of protest.
Reasons for hope
Despite these dire circumstances, Tibetans have new reasons to hope—thanks to the U.S. Congress.
In December 2018, the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act was signed into law with unanimous support from both the House of Representatives and the Senate.
The most important Tibet-related legislation since 2002, it takes aim at China’s double standard of preventing American journalists, diplomats and ordinary citizens from entering Tibet while Chinese citizens travel freely throughout the U.S.
The law requires the State Department to deny U.S. visas to the Chinese officials responsible for keeping Americans out of Tibet. On March 14, more than 30 parliamentarians across Europe published an op-ed calling for reciprocal access to Tibet for their countries.
“The success of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act shows the effect that lobbying Congress can have,” Ms. Tenzin Tsokyi said. “We look forward to talking with our members of Congress next week about fully implementing this new law and addressing other priorities.”
Featured image: Namgyal Buddhist Monastery serves as a cultural center for Ithaca’s Tibetan community. (Kelsey O’Connor/The Ithaca Voice)