From Syracuse.com – Rep. James Walsh delivered a blunt message to the Chinese ambassador in a private meeting this week, telling him to stop “rewriting history” when it comes to Tibet.
Chinese Ambassador Zhou Wenzhong met behind closed doors Wednesday with Walsh and five other members of Congress to discuss recent violence in Tibet and the Chinese crackdown on dissent.
Before the meeting, Walsh backed a Republican bill that would ban President Bush and other U.S. officials from attending the opening ceremonies of this summer’s Olympics in China.
Bush has accepted a Chinese invitation to travel to Beijing for the ceremonies in August.
Walsh, who first became aware of Tibet’s struggles with China when he was a Peace Corps volunteer in Nepal in the early 1970s, said the Chinese ambassador downplayed the government’s recent crackdown on protesters and violence in the region.
Zhou disputed reports from Tibetan exiles that nearly 140 people have been killed since peaceful protests led by Buddhist monks began March 10 and later turned violent.
The ambassador told the six House members, part of a China-U.S. caucus, that only 18 innocent Han Chinese were killed in the violence, Walsh said.
Zhou also tried to put the recent protests into historic context.
“He gave us about 800 years of Tibetan history and how Tibet has always been a part of China,” Walsh said.
When talk turned to the Chinese army’s invasion of Tibet in 1950 and 1951, Zhou told the six House members that it resulted in the “peaceful liberation” of Tibet, Walsh said.
Zhou added that “only a small violent segment of Tibetans rose up” against the Chinese.
“It’s basically China re-writing history,” Walsh said he told the ambassador after his presentation.
“I spoke first and said I certainly have respect for the Chinese people and their government,” Walsh said. “I certainly don’t want to see any boycott of the Olympics. But I said to hear the ambassador describe the crushing of the Tibetan people in 1951 by the Chinese army as a ‘peaceful liberation’ of Tibet is totally incredible and not to be believed.”
Walsh, who has supported the Dalai Lama and Tibet throughout his 20 years in Congress, also rejected Chinese claims that the Nobel Peace Prize laureate helped orchestrate the violence.
“The Chinese army under Mao Zedong’s leadership crushed the people of Tibet and destroyed Tibetan monasteries, killed and imprisoned thousands of people and drove the Dalai Lama out of Tibet,” Walsh said he told the ambassador.
He added, “For the Chinese government to insinuate that the Dalai Lama, who is respected globally as a man of peace, is somehow responsible for this is quite incredible.”
The Chinese Embassy in Washington did not return calls.
Although Walsh said he was the most vocal of the six House members in the meeting, arranged by Rep. Mark Kirk, R-Ill., others echoed his position on Tibet.
Walsh is among seven co-sponsors of a bill introduced this week by Rep. Thaddeus McCotter, R-Mich., that would prohibit President Bush from attending the opening ceremonies of the Olympics in August.
McCotter’s bill also would ban “any individual who is an official, whether elected or appointed, or employee of the federal government from attending any segment of the opening ceremonies of the 2008 Summer Olympics Games held in Beijing, People’s Republic of China.”
The prohibition would not apply to members of the U.S. Olympic team.
“Olympic athletes are supposed to be at the games,” McCotter said in an interview Thursday. “When you take them out that’s a political gesture. But when the President goes, that’s a political gesture.”
McCotter’s said his “Communist Chinese Olympic Accountability Act” is one of several that will likely surface in the coming weeks, and enjoys bipartisan support.
He said there is no precedent for a U.S. president to attend the Olympic Games overseas.
“We’ve looked, and this would be the first,” McCotter said. “We’re trying to say American politicians have enough to do, instead of attending for the first time in history a foreign Olympics.”
He added, “We would hope the very fact that we’re talking about doing this would be enough to encourage the President to change his decision.”
The meeting at the Capitol with the U.S. ambassador took place only two days after more than 1,500 Tibetan refugees rallied in front of the White House, and a smaller group marched on the Chinese embassy in Washington.
In the latter demonstration, the protesters were accused of breaking windows at the embassy. A uniformed Secret Service officer also was struck by a thrown object.
The Tibetan refugees also called on President Bush to boycott the opening ceremonies of the Olympics.