Washington—Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today released the following statement celebrating the 20-year anniversary of the enactment of the Tibetan Policy Act, which was signed into law on September 30, 2002:
“This critical legislation solidified Congress’ commitment to the Tibetan people, and it makes me so proud to know that it continues to shape U.S. policy toward Tibet today.
From its enactment, this law set the foundation for U.S. policy toward Tibet, with the primary goal of preserving the Tibetan way of life. The Tibetan Policy Act makes it official U.S. policy to preserve the Tibetan language, religious freedom, and cultural expression, and to press for improved respect for human rights.
The Act also addresses the importance of economic development, education, and health care for the preservation and prosperity of the Tibetan people. This includes addressing the humanitarian needs of Tibetan refugees and diaspora communities, and promoting activities to protect the environment and sustainably manage the water and other natural resources of the Tibetan plateau, which has become even more important now as we deal with extreme heat, flooding, and drought as a result of climate change.
To achieve these objectives, we established in statute the position of Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues at the State Department, whose primary role is to coordinate U.S. Government policies, programs, and projects concerning Tibet. These include U.S. government assistance for nongovernmental organizations to work in Tibetan communities in China and programs to support human rights and democracy in Tibet, among others.
The Special Coordinator’s central objective, however, is to promote dialogue between the Chinese government and Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, and his representatives. This is very important to me as I have always believed in the importance of dialogue to improve mutual understanding and respect, especially with those with whom you have the deepest disagreements. It was important to me as Mayor of San Francisco, when we developed the first “sister city” relationship with Shanghai in 1980, and it remains important to me today as a United States Senator.
However, to my disappointment, dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama’s representatives have stalled since 2010. I have encouraged this and prior Administrations at every opportunity to open and exercise channels of communication with China, and I likewise call upon the Chinese government to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama, who is unquestionably the cultural and spiritual leader of the Tibetan people.
The Tibetan people remain close to my heart, as they are for so many in California, and as they were for my late husband, Richard Blum, who introduced me to Tibet and felt so passionately about advancing the human rights of Tibetans and preserving their unique heritage.
I am proud of what we accomplished with this legislation, but there is more work to be done. It is imperative for those of us in Congress to continue vigorously supporting the aspirations of the Tibetan people, to safeguard their identity and culture, and to advocate for the importance of dialogue to improve their relations with the Chinese government.”