The Dalai Lama's special envoy Lodi Gyari has told members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus in Washington that China must bear full responsibility for the recent violence and suffering in Tibet. Mr. Gyari said Tibet has become "brutally occupied" and called on U.S. lawmakers to make an urgent visit there as soon as possible. He also called for a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa. VOA Correspondent Cindy Saine reports from Washington.
The Dalai Lama's special envoy Lodi Gyari said the situation in Tibet is grim since China's crackdown last month on anti-government protests. He said it is difficult to obtain exact information because China has completely sealed off many areas, but some 140 people have died and thousands have been arrested and are facing torture. China has put the death toll from the violence at just 22.
Gyari strongly rejected claims by the Chinese government that Tibet's Spiritual Leader, the Dalai Lama, somehow instigated the violence to sabotage the Beijing Olympic Games in August.
"What is happening today in Tibet, you know, the Chinese government must bear full responsibility for that," said Gyari. "In every meeting that I had with the Chinese government in the last six years, at every meeting, I pointed out to them, I said 'Please, you are pushing our people, you know, to the limits. If you continue to pursue this policy, unfortunate situations can happen."
Gyari said no sensible person does a stupid thing as long as he has hope, but some in Tibet are losing hope.
The special envoy told senior U.S. lawmakers that the Dalai Lama has repeatedly made clear he is not seeking independence for Tibet from China, but real autonomy for Tibetans and recognition for their distinct language, culture, religion and way of life. He said China has sent thousands of police and army troops to Tibet to hunt down protest leaders and seal-off Buddhist monasteries.
"Tibet is - has become particularly in the last few weeks, in every sense an occupied nation, brutally occupied by armed forces," said Gyari.
Gyari said the Dalai Lama does not support a boycott of the Olympics, because he believes it is a real source of pride for ordinary Chinese people. But he did object to plans for the Olympic torch to be relayed through Tibet, saying it would be deliberately provocative and insulting after everything that has happened.
He also called for a permanent U.S. diplomatic presence in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, and for an independent, international investigation into the violence.
Republican Representative Chris Smith, a staunch critic of China's human rights, introduced a resolution calling on the Chinese government to allow international aid groups access to the Tibetans who have been arrested, saying they may need urgent medical care. He said China's actions make a mockery of the ideals behind the Olympic Games.
"To think what is going in Lhasa in any way approximates the Olympic spirit of mutual cooperation and respect and love is reminiscent of Hitler's Berlin Olympics," said Smith.
President Bush has called on China to exercise restraint in Tibet, and bestowed Congress' highest civilian honor on the Dalai Lama last year. But Mr. Bush has said that he will attend the Beijing Olympics in August.