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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Halls of Shame: How China Invaded California and Took Over Our Legislature

March 23, 2009

Christa Smith
Huffington Post
March 19, 2009

With little resistance, China's communist
leadership invaded California this past Monday
landing in Sacramento with the clear intention of
inflicting maximum harm to our democracy via the
defeat of a resolution in the California State Assembly.

Mission nearly accomplished.

Assembly Concurrent Resolution 6 (ACR 6)
sponsored by Assembly Member Sam Blakeslee,
(R-San Luis Obispo), was designed to recognize
March 10 as "Dalai Lama and Tibet Awareness Day."
The intent of the non-binding resolution is to
"educate Californians about the teachings of the
Dalai Lama and his efforts to preserve the
Tibetan culture," and to re-affirm that "freedom
of expression, assembly, and religious beliefs
are fundamental human rights that belong to all
people," including of course, Tibetans.

Resolutions such as Blakeslee's require a
majority vote to pass and are considered merely
expressions of the Legislature or one of its
houses. They are not bills that can be enacted into law.

The Tibet resolution was scheduled to be voted on
last Monday by the Assembly, along with other
measures that were supposed to be
"noncontroversial." However, Majority Leader
Alberto Torrico, D-Fremont, set aside the resolution.

Is cultural preservation controversial? How about
the freedoms of expression, assembly, and religion?

According to our elected representatives, suddenly they all are.

China deployed the full force of its diplomatic
arsenal -- with shades of economic blackmail--to
convince California's democratically elected
representatives that, in the words of Consul
General Gao Zhansheng, "as the world economy
faces a grim situation, it is all the more
important for the most developed country and the
biggest developing country in the world to cross
the river in a common boat and proceed hand in hand."

Hand in hand apparently means accepting China's
explanation that Tibet was never an independent
country, and therefore it could not have been
invaded or occupied by China. The communist
government had actually, according to Zhansheng,
pushed through reforms liberating Tibet from
"feudal serfdom and theocratic rule."

Blakeslee called the consul general's words a
"shocking revisionist account of history," and
pushed for a floor vote on Monday afternoon.

Democrats, saying only that the matter needed
"further study," referred the resolution to the
Assembly Rules Committee, where by most accounts
it is likely to die a slow death. This mirrors
the worsening plight of the Tibetans still left
in Tibet who, according to the Dalai Lama -- in
an uncharacteristically harsh assessment on the
March 10 anniversary -- are living in "hell on earth."

It's not just Democrats on China's A-List
legislative team here in California. A bipartisan
and diverse group of liberals and conservatives
have followed China's lead including several
lawmakers traditionally known as long-time supporters of human rights.

Assemblywoman Fiona Ma of San Francisco insisted
that the Assembly leadership was not caving in to
pressure from the Chinese government. California
lawmakers, she said, should focus on fixing the
state's economy and let the Obama administration deal with China.

"I don't feel we should undermine President Obama
and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's
proactive diplomacy toward China, including human
rights, at this time," she said. "[the
resolution] puts us in the middle of this."

Ironically, in Washington, the U.S. House of
Representatives, led by California's own Nancy
Pelosi, had just passed a resolution
commemorating on March 10th the 50th anniversary
of the Tibetan people's spontaneous uprising
against China's occupation of their country. And
despite the Chinese government's urgent mission
to quash that resolution, it passed by a landslide 422 to 1.

Also earlier this month both Washington state and
the city of Seattle issued proclamations to
declare March 10, 2009 as Tibet Day for the very first time.

Still a bit of hope remains here in California as
the Assembly will now have to hold public
hearings on the merits of the resolution.

These will be our public hearings, not
China's--not least because China can't have it
both ways. When citizens around the world raise
their voices against China's police-state
crackdowns in Tibet, against imprisonment and
torture of innocent bystanders, or the crushing
of freedom to practice religion in Tibet, China
tells the world to mind its own business. Tibet,
they say, is an internal matter.

Yet by what measure of democracy can China's
policies in Tibet, a country under occupation now
for more than 50 years, remain an "internal
matter," while at the same time China's one-party
dictatorship is free to meddle in California's "internal affairs?"

China's invasion of our legislature is a major
defeat for both democracy and human rights, much
as its invasion of Tibet has been for the last 50
years. The legislative process should obviously
be open to all concerned citizens, but this
definitely does not include members of the
Communist Party of China who want to dictate the content of our resolutions.

Written with John Isom, executive director of Tibet Justice Center in Berkeley.

Dechen Tsering, president of the Tibetan
Association of Northern California, and Giovanni
Vassallo, president of Committee of 100 for Tibet, contributed to this post.
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