The Democratic Candidates on Tibet

*Editor’s Note: The current United States presidential election will undoubtedly have a major impact on human rights and democratic freedoms across the world. Unfortunately, however, Tibet has been rarely mentioned on the campaign trail. With Election Day coming up on November 8, 2016 and the situation in Tibet continuing to deteriorate, TFC is happy to publish this guest post by a contributor who chose to remain anonymous. While we are less than enthusiastic about the policy positions of the presumptive republican presidential nominee, Donald Trump, the two candidates currently vying for the nomination of the other major U.S. political party, Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton, have distinct records on the Tibet issue that merit careful analysis. We, thus, ask our readers to judge them each on their individual records and participate in the election process in whatever capacity you are able. With this information on hand, we sincerely hope that, come Election Day, you will make the right decision for Tibet, the United States, and, indeed, the world. 


By Anonymous

Senator Bernie Sanders

Image credit: Tibetans For Bernie
Image credit: Tibetans For Bernie

Speaking on the Senate floor in 1999, Sanders stated that the Tibetan people “have been denied most rights guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, including the rights of self-determination, freedom of speech, assembly, movement, expression, and travel.” He calls religious repression “one of the cruelest aspects of the Chinese regime in Tibet.” To watch a video of the speech, please click here.

In 2001 Senator Sanders cosponsored a congressional resolution, H.Con.Res.68, which condemned China’s poor human rights record and specifically mentioned Tibetans and Tibetan Buddhists. In 2008 he co-sponsored Senate Resolution 504, which condemned the violence used by the Chinese government during the 2008 Tibetan Uprising. It also called for dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.

In 2013 Senator Sanders was one of 21 senators to call on John Kerry to “make Tibet an integral issue” during his first visit to China as Secretary of State. The letter also specifically called for the establishment of a U.S. consulate in Lhasa, Tibet.

The Honorable Hillary Clinton

Image credit: State Department

Hillary Clinton has met with the Dalai Lama on numerous occasions as First Lady, Senator, and later as Secretary of State. In her memoir, ‘Living History,” she revealed the strong interest that she and Bill Clinton had in Tibet and the Dalai Lama, and described several events involving Tibet that had a deep impact on her. These included participation in the 1995 UN World Conference on Women, which took place in Beijing and involved numerous restrictions on Tibetan participants, and conversations with then-Communist Party leader Jiang Zemin about China’s suppression of Tibet.

In 2001 then-Senator Clinton co-sponsored the Tibetan Policy Act of 2001, and in 2006 she co-sponsored S. 2784, which awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to the Dalai Lama. In 2008, as a presidential candidate in the Democratic primary campaign Hillary Clinton urged China to prevent any further escalation of violence in Tibet following the Tibetan Uprising, saying: “More than 10 years later, Chinese repression in Tibet continues. This week, Tibetan monks have sent a message to the world that their aspirations for religious liberty remain as strong as ever.” She later called on then-President George W. Bush to boycott the Beijing Olympics because of Chinese repression in Tibet.

As Secretary of State, Clinton said that in dialogue with China “we will hold ourselves and others accountable, as we work to expand human rights and create a world that respects those rights . . . where Tibetans and all Chinese people can enjoy religious freedom without fear of prosecution.” In 2011 she delivered a speech titled “A Broad Vision of U.S.-China Relations in the 21st Century,” which included the following on Tibet:

We urge China to protect the rights of minorities in Tibet and Xinjiang; the rights of all people to express themselves and worship freely; and the rights of civil society and religious organizations to advocate their positions within a framework of the rule of law.

In 2012 Secretary Clinton urged Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama.

The Democratic Party will nominate a 2016 presidential candidate at its convention in Philadelphia the week of July 25, 2016.

Comments 1

  1. I like the initiative that you took to write this but it seems like you tried to create a middle of the road analysis for an election where there is really one candidate with a long record of support for Tibet. For example, you highlight three actions Sanders has taken for Tibet and detailed 5 examples for Clinton. The truth is Sanders has taken at least 17 significant actions for Tibet (see “Bernie Sanders’ Outstanding Record on Tibet” on the Tibetans for Bernie Facebook page), including being the only presidential candidate to have ever introduced legislation in support of Tibet. While his track record alone might be enough for many Tibetans, the fact that he has consistently fought against the “trade before human rights” policies that the Clintons have fought for and are still an integral piece of her platform should make our the choice in this election clear.

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