Washington, D.C. - Speaker Nancy Pelosi spoke on the House floor this morning to support H. Res. 1370, legislation calling on the Chinese government to immediately cease human rights abuses ahead of the 2008 Summer Olympic Games. The resolution passed by an overwhelming vote of 419 to 1. Below are her remarks:
“I rise today in strong support of this resolution calling on the Chinese government to end its human rights abuses so that the Olympic Games can take place in an atmosphere that honors the Olympic traditions of freedom and openness.
“With passage of this resolution, the House will speak with one voice about the conditions in China and Tibet on the eve of the Olympic Games.
“The Olympic charter states that the Olympics should promote ‘a peaceful society concerned with the preservation of human dignity.' The reality is that human rights abuses committed by Chinese authorities are worsening in the weeks and months before the Olympics.
“In exchange for the privilege of hosting the Olympic Games, the Chinese government made commitments on freedom of the press, human rights, and on the environment.
“Many of these commitments have been violated repeatedly and blatantly:
- Both foreign and domestic journalists have been harassed, threatened, and detained;
- Human rights defenders and activists have been arrested and imprisoned at an alarming rate in recent months;
- The dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama has gone nowhere;
- Thousands of peaceful Tibetans still languish in prisons in the aftermath of the protests that began in March;
- Chinese authorities have stepped up so-called ‘patriotic education' campaigns that require Tibetan Buddhists, regardless of their true thoughts, to publicly denounce the Dalai Lama;
“The violations of human rights do not end on China's borders. On the international front, the Chinese government continues to support the genocidal regime in Sudan and the military junta in Burma.
“Their actions runs counter to our interests of promoting peace, stability, and morality in the world. The situation in Sudan would change drastically if the Chinese government would cooperate at the United Nations and send that message to the Sudanese government.
“It is in this context that President Bush is traveling to China to attend the Olympic Games.
“To my knowledge, a sitting President of the United States has never attended an Olympics on foreign soil. That gives the President tremendous leverage with the Chinese government as he gives them tremendous face by attending the Opening Ceremony of the Olympics.
“I have no objection to the President attending the Olympics. I do hope, though, with all the face, for lack of a better word, the Chinese government will receive by his participation in the Opening Ceremony, that he will take the opportunity to use his leverage to speak very forcibly to the Chinese regime. Not only about humans rights in China and Tibet - of course that is the top priority - but also about the barriers to U.S. products going into China, about the dangers that are hoisted upon our children and the American people by the lack of safety in the production of food.
“It is important for the body to know, and I'm sure others have made the point, that the President recently met with some advocates for human rights in China and Tibet. I was very proud that they had the opportunity to meet with the President in the White House, and I thank the President for doing that.
“But shortly after the President had the meeting, two of these people were detained on the way to a meeting with our colleagues, Congressman Chris Smith of New Jersey and Congressman Frank Wolf of Virginia.
“So the message has to be clearer to the Chinese government. We have concerns about jobs, U.S. jobs, fleeing to China without the opening of their markets to our products. We have concerns about human rights in China and Tibet; we want to work with the Chinese government to fight global warming.
“There are areas where we can have a level of cooperation. But if we give them that level of respect by having the President of United States attend the Opening Ceremony of the Olympic Games, it is important for the President, when he is there, to deliver a strong message of concerns that we have in our country.
“I hope that we can have a brilliant future with China. Mr. Smith, Mr. Wolf, and I have been trying for over 20 years. We were told 19 years ago, at the time of Tiananmen Square massacre: ‘If only we would engage economically with China, then human rights would improve; their democratization would take place, and markets would be open to products.' But that really hasn't happened.
“Here we are 19 years later. The Olympic Committee honored China by giving them the opportunity to host these Olympic Games. The President of the United States is honoring them by attending the Opening Ceremony. It is very important that the opportunity afforded to China be met with responsible behavior on their part, in terms of human rights in China and Tibet.
“So I hope the President will not miss the opportunity that this historic visit has wide-ranging consequences and which will be viewed with such favorability should he deliver the message when he is there. The President is well-known for his support of freedom of religion. It is a commitment that he has made throughout the world and it is one that I hope he will carry with him to China as well.
“I'm very thrilled that the Congress of the United States will speak with one voice on this important subject. I know the struggle for human rights is a long one, but we did not expect the Olympics to result in a situation in where they were worsened in China instead of improving, as was the promise.”