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Tibet Among World's Most Repressed Societies: US senator

March 25, 2013

WASHINGTON, March 19, 2013: Expressing concerns about the continuing unrest in Tibet and the tragic trend of self-immolations, a top US senator has alleged that the region is among the most repressed and closed societies of the world.

"Tibet today is one of the most repressed and closed societies in the world, where merely talking on the phone can land you in jail. Support for the Dalai Lama can be prosecuted as an offence against the state," Senator Robert Menendez, Chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee said.

"Tibetans are treated as second class citizens; their travel within and outside of Tibetan areas is highly restricted. Foreign diplomats and journalists are routinely denied access," he said on the Senate floor yesterday.

Since February 2009, more than 100 Tibetans have set themselves on fire, he noted.

Many of the self-immolators have called for the return of the Dalai Lama to Tibet and for China to acknowledge the basic human dignity of the Tibetan people.

"Like so many others, I wish that Tibetans would not choose self-immolations, a horrific act, as a method of protest. I hope Tibetans will find other ways to express their grievances and despair and halt these self-destructive acts," he said.

"At the same time, we must understand that these sorts of acts are indicative of the deep sense of frustration felt by the Tibetan people. This is not a conspiracy of "foreign forces" but indicative of the deep sense of hopelessness of a people denied their basic dignity," Menendez said.

He observed that Americans see Tibet as an issue of fundamental justice and fairness, where the fundamental human rights of the Tibetan people, as embodied in the Chinese constitution, are not being respected; where their culture is being eroded; and where their land is being exploited.

Menendez said thus the responsibility falls to the US to help the Tibetan people in their efforts to preserve their culture and identity and have a say in their own affairs and to be able to exercise genuine autonomy within China.

"We should continue to fund the important programmes that help Tibetan communities, both in exile and on the Tibetan plateau. While these provide tangible humanitarian results, they also send a critical signal to the aggrieved Tibetan population that the United States hears their plea," he said.

The United States, he said should work with the UN to secure access to Tibet for independent international observers and media members.

"The State Department should continue to insist on access to Tibet by its personnel. We need independent and credible reporting on the true situation on the ground, and the Department should work with China to take steps to see that the principle of reciprocity is respected," Menendez argued.

"Peaceful resolution of the Tibet issue could go a long way in demonstrating to the world that China is indeed a responsible and constructive member of the community of nations. In turn, Beijing's growing influence in the Himalayan belt, especially Nepal, should be assessed in a broader dialogue with other nations in the region," Menendez said.

The full text of Senator Menendez's statement can be found at

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