Recognizing the plight of the Tibetan People; Securing HIV/AIDS Funds for San Francisco

“Life For Tibetans Hell On Earth,” says Dalai Lama

WASHINGTON (RPRN) March 13, 2009-On Wednesday, I rose in strong support of H.Res.226, a resolution recognizing the plight of the Tibetan people on the 50th Anniversary of His Holiness the Dalai Lama being forced into exile. The House approved this measure by a vote of 422-1. With this resolution, we remember the peaceful uprising against the Chinese government that led to the exiling of his Holiness out of Tibet, and honor the thousands of brave Tibetans who sacrificed their lives for freedom.

Fifty years ago, the people of Lhasa assembled together and called for the Chinese army to cease its repression, and leave Tibet. Chief among them was His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who was forced into exile in India. When the Dalai Lama first came to Congress in 1987 with his proposal for autonomy, little did we think that more than 20 years later we would still be making this case. After 20 years, we have a more repressive situation in Tibet, a situation so bad that it moved his Holiness—in the statement he released on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of his exile to say that life for Tibetans, on the repression of the Chinese regime, is “hell on earth.”

Last year, I was proud to lead a congressional delegation to India where we were able to meet with His Holiness in Dharamsala, India. The visit—by coincidence or karma—occurred after the protests that swept across the Tibetan plateau, and ended with the subsequent crackdown by Chinese authorities. When our delegation arrived, the roads were lined with thousands of Tibetan monks, nuns and children waving American and Tibetan flags. We heard firsthand accounts from former prisoners describing the harsh conditions they endured just for demanding the right to express themselves freely.

For the last year, Tibet has been under martial law, and the human rights situation has worsened according to a report by the State Department. There has been no progress in the discussions with the Chinese government. It is long past time for Beijing to respect the human rights of every Tibetan, indeed of every Chinese citizen. The United States Congress continues to be a bedrock of support for the Tibetan people, and we do so in a strong bipartisan way.

On Monday, I spoke before the International Campaign for Tibet, and I pledged my strong continuing support for the freedom of the Tibetan people. I was proud to meet with Kelsang Aukatsang, a constituent from San Francisco, where we discussed the situation in Tibet and ways that Congress can continue to support Tibetans and promote a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue.

The situation in Tibet challenges the conscience of the world. If freedom-loving people do not speak out for human rights in China and Tibet, then we lose the moral authority to talk about it in any other place in the world.

HIV/AIDS Funding for San Francisco

The Omnibus funding bill signed into law yesterday by President Obama includes a provision that will prevent drastic cuts in Ryan White HIV/AIDS care and treatment funds for San Francisco, and 12 other urban areas across the country. The inclusion of this essential protection will restore nearly $7 million in funding for the San Francisco Eligible Metropolitan Area, which includes Marin and San Mateo counties.

San Francisco developed the model of community-based care that served as the basis for the original Ryan White CARE Act, and our needs are still severe. AIDS continues to be the City’s second leading cause of premature death for men, and nearly 22,000 San Franciscans are currently living with HIV/AIDS – more than at any point in the history of the epidemic. Restoration of these funds was critical for our system of care.

I applaud Senators Feinstein and Boxer for their leadership in the successful effort to defeat a last-minute amendment from Republican Senator Michael Enzi, which would have reinstated these severe cuts. Senator Enzi mischaracterized the impact of this provision by claiming it would harm other jurisdictions. In reality, the omnibus funding bill provided the largest funding increase in eight years for the portion of Ryan White funds that goes directly to all urban areas heavily impacted by HIV/AIDS.

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