I wrote this for the ICT blog and am sharing it here.
May 10, 2012
Now that the dust has somewhat settled on the Republican Party’s search for its presidential candidate, the time may be right to look at how the tiny Tibetan American community and Tibet supporters should be approaching the forthcoming American presidential elections.
The trend among new immigrants to the United States is to start with being a single-issue voter and gradually evolve into considering multiple issues as factors that will affect their voting pattern. Obviously, to Tibetan Americans, the issue of how a Democratic candidate (namely current President Barack Obama) or a Republican Candidate (Governor Mitt Romney) stands on Tibet will have considerable impact in who they vote for. I personally know of Tibetan Americans who profess being Democrats but nevertheless voted for President George W. Bush on account of his attitude towards Tibet.
In the Mitt Romney campaign website there is no specific reference to Tibet. However, there are two paragraphs on human rights under “China and East Asia” wherein it says, “Any serious U.S. policy toward China must confront the fact that China’s regime continues to deny its people basic political freedoms and human rights.” It continues, “A Romney administration will vigorously support and engage civil society groups within China that are promoting democratic reform, anti-corruption efforts, religious freedom, and women’s and minority rights.” It concludes, “Mitt Romney will seek to engage China, but will always stand up for those fighting for the freedoms we enjoy.”
Since President Obama had already served a term and been a Senator before that, we have records of his position on Tibet. If you visit the website of the International Campaign for Tibet, you will get an idea of how he has approached different aspects of the Tibetan issue, both when he was a Senator and as the President (please see our compilation of Obama Administration Statements on Tibet.)
Additionally, as yet, it is only President Obama who has responded to a questionnaire on Tibet that ICT had sent to potential presidential candidates some time back. (Tibetan Americans and ICT members may want to encourage Mitt Romney to respond to the questionnaire. The ICT questionnaire web page provides links to Governor Romney’s webmail, Facebook and Twitter sites). In his response to the questionnaire, President Obama says, “As President, I have strongly supported the preservation of the unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions of Tibet and the Tibetan people throughout the world.” He adds that “I have met with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama at the White House twice since taking office, in 2010 and 2011, and I commended his commitment to nonviolence and dialogue with China and his pursuit of the “Middle Way” approach.”
The Obama Campaign website interestingly has a section targeted at Asian Americans & Pacific Islanders. May be this is an area that those Tibetan Americans for whom multiple issues will be a factor in their voting decision should be looking at, too. Whatever it may be, I hope to see the Tibetan American community becoming more proactive during this election and to strengthen the case that United States’ interest in Tibet is American interest, too.