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U.S. Congressional staff allowed into Tibet for first time since spring 2008

August 16, 2009

International Campaign for Tibet
August 13, 2009

For the first time since the protests across
Tibet began in March, 2008, Chinese authorities
will allow United States Congress personnel into
Tibet, following previously rejected requests by
Members of Congress and their staffs. At least 10
Congressional staffers depart for travel in China and Tibet this week.

As typical of such visits to Tibet, the itinerary
will likely be tightly scripted with scant if any
opportunity for independent inquiry. Several
European government officials and foreign
journalists have been allowed on tightly
controlled visits to Tibet, almost exclusively to
Lhasa, since the protests began in March 2008.

Todd Stein, Director of Government Relations at
the International Campaign for Tibet, said: "The
U.S. Congress has a demonstrated interest and
remains very engaged in Tibetan issues. What
these staffers will be given permission to see
and do will be another indication of how the
Chinese government wants the international
community to interpret the situation in Tibet. To
date, Chinese authorities have explained away
tension and unrest across Tibet as isolated
incidents resulting from outside interference. We
hope the staffers will see enough to make their
own judgments about the underlying causes and the
impact of Chinese policies on the Tibetan people
and their prospects for the future."

"These staffers are well-briefed and aware of
their possible exposure to Chinese government
machinations during the visits, including being
used for propaganda purposes. Discussions among
Members of Congress, staff and Chinese officials
are often parsed by the Chinese official media to
suggest, for example, that any endorsement of
economic progress in Tibet is a departure from
concerns about the impact of Chinese encroachment
on the Tibetan identity and the legitimacy of the
Dalai Lama's efforts for the implementation of genuine autonomy for Tibetans."

The International community continues to press
Chinese authorities for full access to Tibet for
diplomats, foreign journalists and human rights
rapporteurs. These Congressional staff visits
could signal a new Chinese strategy of allowing
"opaque access" in order to deflect such
pressure, an approach that may have been
previewed during the July riots in Xinjiang when
foreign journalists were allowed to see the sites
of the riots but were not permitted to pursue independent investigations.
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665   ctcoffice@tibet.ca
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