The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader and former head of state who has lived in exile for 28 years, challenged the People's Republic of China yesterday to end its "great destruction" of Tibet, which China annexed in 1950.
In a speech before the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, the Dalai Lama proposed a five-point peace plan that he said could serve as the first step toward restoring Tibet's independence. He said it was the first time that he had issued a political statement outside of India, where he has lived since fleeing Tibet in 1959 in the wake of a repressed Tibetan uprising against the Chinese.
"There has been so much destruction, so many people have suffered," the Dalai Lama testified to the caucus in the Longworth House Office Building. "The value of justice, of human life has long been neglected."
The Dalai Lama proposed to designate Tibet, incorporated as an autonomous region of the People's Republic of China in 1965,, a zone of peace. Chinese leaders contend that Tibet is an inalienable part of China.
The Dalai Lama urged an end to what he called the transfer of millions of Chinese to Tibet, stressing that it "threatens the very existence of Tibetans as a people."
In addition, he called for the restoration of freedoms and democratic rights in Tibet. He also asked China to abandon plans to produce nuclear weapons and dump nuclear waste in the region, and begin "earnest negotiations" between Tibetans and Chinese government leaders.
The 52-year-old Tibetan leader, who became Tibet's head of state in 1950 at the age of 16, said he chose to speak to the caucus now because the United States recently has expressed concern about China's human rights abuses in Tibet.
In June, the House unanimously passed a resolution condemning China, contending that more than 1 million Tibetans had been killed and more than 6,000 monasteries destroyed as a result of Chinese annexation. It also demanded that thousands of political prisoners in Tibet be released.
The Dalai Lama said he has been encouraged by "hopeful signs" that Chinese leaders may be willing to discuss Tibet's future, despite increasing military tension in recent months on the Chinese-Indian border near Tibet.
Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), cochairman of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus, hailed the Dalai Lama's speech as a "singularly constructive moment" in Tibet's struggle for independence, which he said it enjoyed for more than 1,000 years before China established political and military control in 1950. Lantos promised the Dalai Lama that a resolution supporting the peace initiative soon would be introduced to Congress.
The Dalai Lama began his 10-day visit to the United States, his first since 1984, Sunday in Plains, Ga., where he met with former president Jimmy Carter, who visited Tibet in June. During his three-day stay in Washington, the Dalai Lama will meet with the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and participate in Buddhist teachings at the Tibetan Meditation Center and an interfaith service Wednesday evening at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He also will visit New York City, where he will be presented the Albert Schweitzer Humanitarian Award.