The free world will have lost its moral authority to speak about human rights if it did not speak up against Chinese oppression in Tibet, the Speaker of the US House of Representatives said on Friday.
"The situation in Tibet is a challenge to the conscience of the world," Nancy Pelosi told a gathering of Tibetans after meeting the Dalai Lama at the seat of his government-in-exile.
China's crackdown on anti-government protests in Tibet, which it says were orchestrated by the Dalai Lama, has drawn sharp international criticism and clouded preparations for the Beijing Olympics.
The Tibetan spiritual leader has denied encouraging the violent protests in Tibet, the largest in almost 20 years, and has even offered to resign as Tibetan leader if violence worsens.
The Tibetan government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala, says at least 99 protesters had been killed since the demonstrations started in Tibet on March 10.
"If freedom-loving people throughout the world do not speak out against Chinese oppression and China and Tibet, we have lost all moral authority to speak on behalf of human rights anywhere in the world," Pelosi said.
"Perhaps it is our karma, perhaps it is our fate that we be with you at the time," she said to a huge round of applause from the crowd.
The Dalai Lama espouses a middle path of greater autonomy for Tibet rather than independence, a stance that many Tibetans, particularly the younger generation hungry for complete freedom, do not endorse.
He has said he was willing to speak to Chinese leaders for a solution once the protests died down.