WASHINGTON – The House on Wednesday criticized China for its "disproportionate and extreme" response to protests in Tibet, and urged the Beijing government to hold direct, unconditional talks with the Dalai Lama on the future of Tibet.
The House resolution, sponsored by Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called on China to end its crackdown on nonviolent protests in Tibet, release Tibetans imprisoned in peaceful demonstrations, and allow international monitors and journalists unfettered access to the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan areas of China. It passed 413 to 1.
In the Senate, Sens. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., and Gordon Smith, R-Ore., introduced a similar resolution. Like the House measure, it states that the opening of further Chinese diplomatic missions in the United States should be contingent on Beijing allowing the United States to establish an office in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet.
The congressional vote came amid attempts around the world to link China's poor human rights record to the staging of the summer Olympic Games in Beijing. Demonstrations over Tibet have been held along the path of the Olympic torch in Paris, London and San Francisco and several international leaders have suggested a possible boycott of the opening ceremonies.
Pelosi and Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton are among those lawmakers calling on President Bush to consider staying away from the opening ceremonies.
"Most insulting of all," Pelosi, D-Calif., said in House debate Tuesday evening, "is that China insists that the torch go through Tibet ... The world should not allow that to happen."
China's Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu, in a statement posted on the ministry's web site, condemned the House resolution, saying it "chooses to remain silent on the violence involved in beating, smashing up properties, looting and arson in Lhasa and the Dalai clique who premeditated and organized the criminal act of violence."
She said China was willing to continue contacts with the Dalai Lama if he stops "plotting and inciting criminal act(s) of violence in Tibet and other areas and disrupting the Beijing Olympics" and recognizes Tibet and Taiwan as inseparable parts of Chinese territory.
The Dalai Lama, who fled from Tibet after a failed uprising in 1959 but remains the religious and cultural leader of many Tibetans, has said that he wants greater autonomy for the remote mountain region but is not seeking independence.
The House resolution cited growing resentment in Tibet against Chinese laws and policies that have "severely eroded the ability of Tibetans to preserve their distinctive language, culture and religious identity."
Bush is also being urged to boycott the opening ceremonies for the Olympic games unless China takes stronger action to end the violence in Sudan's troubled Darfur region. Rep. Michael Capuano, D-Mass., was seeking support for a resolution stating this policy in talks Wednesday with House colleagues.
Meanwhile, Bush on Wednesday again exhorted Beijing to reach out to the Dalai Lama to find a solution.
"It would stand the Chinese government in good stead if they would begin a dialogue with the representatives for the Dalai Lama," he said during a photo opportunity while holding talks with Singapore's senior minister, Goh Chok Tong.
Violent clashes in Tibet are threatening to overshadow China's hosting role of the Summer Olympics in August.
Bush said that if China's leaders ever were to reach out to Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, "they'd find him to be a really fine man, a peaceful man."
Bush has previously appealed directly to Chinese President Hu Jintao on the matter.