A special coordinator for Tibetan issues at the U.S. State Department says Washington considers Tibet to be a part of China, but encourages Beijing to hold talks with Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.
In a statement to the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee Tuesday, Paula Dobriansky said the U.S. has two goals. The first is to promote a substantive dialogue between China and the Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and the second is to help sustain Tibet's unique religious, linguistic and cultural heritage.
Also testifying before the committee was the Dalai Lama's special envoy, Lodi G. Gyari. He said the decision to hold the hearing shows how deeply the U.S. Congress cares about the issue of Tibet. Gyari also thanked President Bush for his support of the Dalai Lama's sincere efforts to find a mutually beneficial solution to the Tibetan issue.
Actor Richard Gere joined Gyari in appealing to Congress to help Tibet's quest for autonomy.
Gere also urged Congress to convince China that the survival of Tibet's spiritual and cultural heritage is not only vital to the Tibetan people, but to China's own ambitions for success and respectability.
Echoing those remarks, Committee Chairman Representative Tom Lantos said that proof of China's peaceful rise must first come from within its own borders.
In 1959, the Dalai Lama went into exile in India after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. He has said he only wants real autonomy for his homeland.
The two sides have held several rounds of talks, but Beijing says the Dalai Lama is not sincere and it accuses him of secretly wanting independence.
In October, the Dalai Lama will receive the Congressional Gold Medal, a gesture that is likely to upset Beijing. Others who have received the award include Pope John Paul II, South African President Nelson Mandela, and Mother Theresa.