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The Free Tibet Lobby is Hardly Cheap

July 25th 2011

Asia Topics - tibet govt in exile emblem

Free Tibet isn’t cheap: China criticized President Barack Obama recently for meeting with the Dalai Lama, the prominent Tibetan spiritual leader who is visiting the United States. China has occupied Tibet since the 1949 Communist revolution, attracting international criticism and numerous public relations efforts on the part of the Chinese government. The Himalayan region, however, has had a longstanding effort in Washington to lobby the U.S. government for support in the form of the International Campaign for Tibet.

The group, which spent $160,000 on lobbying in 2009 and $145,000 in 2010, advocates for assistance to Tibet on a number of different issues. The group’s first-quarter report shows it spent $50,000 during the first three months of the year and was represented by lobbyist Todd Stein. Stein has lobbied for assistance to Tibetan refugees and Tibetan communities within Tibet. He’s also lobbied for Tibetan Fulbright scholarships, broadcasting entities, and exchange programs, according to lobbying records.

Stein is interesting unto himself, as he’s passed through Washington D.C.’s famed “revolving door.” Before registering as Tibet’s lobbyist, he worked as the legislative director for Rep. Tom Allen (D-Maine). Allen was among the earliest house co-sponsors of the 2002 Tibetan Policy Act, a piece of legislation his former legislative director would, in fact, later lobby for when he left Allen’s staff in 2008.

One of the most consistently targeted issues for the Tibetan lobby is the implementation of Tibetan Policy Act, a measure advocated by the campaign since its passage in 2002. The act, which is still in the process of being applied, seeks access to Tibetan prisoners in China and the establishment of a U.S. office in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa. It also encourages the Chinese government to enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama. The act also states that the U.S. ambassador to China should try to meet with the Panchen Lama, a Tibetan religious figure who was taken from his home in 1995. While many points of the law have been achieved, the Tibetan lobby continues to advocate for its complete implementation.

Walter Hickey writes for OpenSecrets.org, from where this article is adapted.

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