WASHINGTON: The US Senate on Thursday urged China to ease restrictions on Tibetans, free prisoners and allow access by foreign journalists and diplomats following a wave of self-immolation protests.
In an evening voice vote without objections, the Senate approved the resolution that deplores “repressive policies targeting Tibetans” despite criticism from China, which said the bill interfered in its internal affairs.
The Senate called on China “to suspend implementation of religious control regulations” imposed since 2008 and to resume dialogue with representatives of the exiled Tibetan leader, the Dalai Lama, to resolve grievances.
In the resolution, the Senate urged China to free all people who have been “arbitrarily detained; to cease the intimidation, harassment and detention of peaceful protesters; and to allow unrestricted access to journalists, foreign diplomats and international organizations to Tibet.”
At least 30 Tibetans have set themselves ablaze since last year, activists say, in stark protests against what rights groups say is China’s religious and political repression against the mostly Buddhist people.
“The Senate has sent a clear message to the Tibetan people: we stand in solidarity with you as you strive to preserve your culture and practice your faith freely,” said Senator Dianne Feinstein, a main sponsor of the resolution.
“It is my fervent hope that passage of this resolution will convince China to engage the Dalai Lama through dialogue and negotiation on addressing the legitimate grievances of all Tibetans,” said Feinstein, a member of President Barack Obama’s Democratic Party who represents California.
The Senate moved ahead despite criticism a day earlier by Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Hong Lei, who said that Beijing was committed to all ethnic groups’ rights and accused the US lawmakers of interference.
“We urge these congressmen to recognize facts, discard prejudice and stop interfering in China’s internal affairs. They should do more things to contribute to China-US relations instead of the contrary,” he said.
China contends that it has provided development to Tibet and accuses the Dalai Lama, a Buddhist monk who fled into exile in 1959 and later won the Nobel Peace Prize, of fomenting unrest.