After peaceful protests by Tibetan Buddhist monks and other ethnic Tibetans were suppressed by police in Lhasa, demonstrations devolved into riots and Chinese security forces responded with force. Protests have also occurred in Chinese provinces surrounding Lhasa that have ethnic Tibetan populations, prompting large-scale deployments of security forces across much of western China.
U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice urged the Chinese government to exercise restraint in dealing with the protests. All sides, she said, should refrain from violence. President George W. Bush has encouraged the Chinese government to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama and his representatives so that long-standing issues with regard to Tibet may be resolved.<!-- IMAGE -->
Such issues include legal measures that have expanded and deepened Chinese government control over the practice of Tibetan Buddhism, including restrictions on the operation of monasteries, the training and travel of Tibetan Buddhist monks and nuns, and the recognition of lamas and other important religious leaders. Frequent verbal attacks against the Dalai Lama by Chinese leaders exacerbate Tibetan frustration, as do restrictions on travel by Tibetans to India and Nepal, whether for family reunification or advanced spiritual training from the Dalai Lama and other important teachers.
The Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since 1959, has said repeatedly that he is seeking meaningful autonomy for Tibet and not independence. In this spirit, he has urged greater religious and cultural freedom for Tibet. He has also renounced any form of violence and has asked his Tibetan followers to do the same. Unfortunately, talk between his representatives and the Chinese government have yet to produce any results.<!-- IMAGE -->
The United States urges China and other governments to respect the fundamental rights of all of its citizens to peacefully express their political and religious views. In particular, the U.S. calls on China to address policies that are marginalizing Tibetans in their traditional homelands and are undermining their religion, culture, and traditional livelihoods. The United States, said President Bush, is committed to "the preservation of Tibet's unique religious, cultural, and linguistic identity and the protection of the human rights of all Tibetans."