Saturday, August 20, 2022

US Corners ‘Belligerent Beijing’ On Tibet Issue; Introduces New Legislation To Settle China-Tibet Conflict

At a time when the United States and China are having a hot and cold relationship, the US House Foreign Affairs Committee Lead Republican Michael McCaul (R-TX) and US Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA), Co-Chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, have introduced legislation to strengthen the United States’ policy to promote dialogue between the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Dalai Lama toward a peaceful resolution of the conflict between Tibet and the PRC.

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The “Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act,” introduced on July 13,  supports the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination and recognizes Tibet’s legal status as unresolved.

It seeks to strengthen “the long-standing, bipartisan US policy of promoting dialogue by ensuring that US policy is based on principles of international law and accurately reflects the nature of the conflict between Tibet and the PRC. The legislation seeks to jump-start negotiations between PRC officials and the Dalai Lama or his representatives.”

It may be noted that no formal dialogue between the Chinese side and the Dalai Lama’s representatives has happened since 2010, and Chinese officials continue to make unreasonable demands of the Dalai Lama as a condition for further dialogue.

“The Chinese Communist Party’s invasion of Tibet in 1950 and its repression of Tibetans ever since set the stage for the CCP’s ongoing territorial aggression and human rights atrocities,” said Representative McCaul.

“Their attempts to steal peoples’ freedoms and rewrite history continue to threaten American values and our national security interests today. This bipartisan bill will help ensure Tibetans have a say in their future and reject the CCP lies that their tyranny over Tibet is historically legitimate.”

“Congress has had a long and abiding interest in a peaceful resolution to the conflict between Tibet and China,” said Representative McGovern. “The United States government has consistently called on Chinese officials to return to dialogue, without preconditions.

But that hasn’t worked. The Chinese continue to turn their backs on the Dalai Lama. Our bipartisan legislation seeks to strengthen US policy by grounding it in international law and countering Chinese disinformation, to get the two sides to negotiate a durable solution.”

us-china
Image for Representation

The Bill Has Two Main Components:

One, “it strengthens the basis for US support for dialogue by making it US policy that the Tibetan people are a people entitled to the right of self-determination under international law and that their ability to exercise this right is precluded by the current PRC policies; and that the conflict between Tibet and the PRC is unresolved, and that the legal status of Tibet remains to be determined under international law.”

Two, it “counters PRC disinformation on Tibet by directing the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues to ensure that US government statements and documents counter disinformation about Tibet from PRC officials, including disinformation about the history of Tibet, the Tibetan people, and Tibetan institutions including that of the Dalai Lama, authorizing existing funding under the Asia Reassurance Initiative Act of 2018 to counter disinformation about Tibet, and requiring the annual Report on Tibet Negotiations report to Congress on the Executive Branch’s activities to counter disinformation about Tibet.”

Incidentally, the Dalai Lama’s office of Tibet in Washington, DC, has welcomed the introduction of the new Bill.

“Sikyong” (President) Penpa Tsering of the Central Tibetan Administration ( based in India), who visited Washington in April and June this year “to garner continued support for the just cause of Tibet and the resumption of dialogue for peaceful resolution of Tibet issue,” said: “China’s rule in Tibet lacks historical support, it lacks popular support, and it lacks diplomatic support.”

Penpa added, “Why is China asking nations to say that Tibet is part of the PRC (People’s Republic of China)? It is because China lacks legitimacy over Tibet. Tibetans simply want the same right to self-determination that all people deserve.

We have suffered enormous abuse from the Chinese government for decades, yet we have always sought to settle our differences through peaceful dialogue. This bill would allow the United States to back its consistent calls for dialogue with more force and urgency while helping give Tibetans a voice in their own country.

We thank Reps. McGovern and McCaul for introducing the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act, which builds on the incredible bipartisan support the United States has always shown for our just cause.”

Namgyal Choedup, the representative in the Office of Tibet, is said to be looking forward to supporting the bill’s passage through Congress.

“We Tibetans have always felt immense gratitude to the United States for its leadership in pushing a peaceful resolution to our nonviolent struggle against China’s oppression,” Namgyal said, adding, “With the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act, the US will raise its commitment to resolving the Tibetan issue to an even greater level.

This will not only help the cause of Tibetans, but the cause of democracy, the cause of dialogue, and the cause of peace around the globe. Therefore, we must do everything we can to help advance this bill through both houses of Congress and onto the President’s desk.”

File:The 14th Dalai Lama FEP.jpg - Wikimedia Commons
The 14th Dalai Lama – Wikimedia Commons

Importantly, US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi strongly supports the proposed legislation. For her, “This new edition, bold, bipartisan legislation, would state clearly the history of Tibet and encourage a peaceful resolution to the ultimate status of Tibet.”

She expressed her views before the formal introduction of the Bill, and this is significant to note while speaking at the inaugural session of the 8th World Parliamentarians’ Convention on Tibet, which took place in Washington, DC, in the last week of June.

The convention had brought together elected leaders from around the globe, Tibetan exile officials, and pro-Tibet activists. The Dalai Lama addressed the convention via video message.

It may be noted that in 2018, the US Congress passed the bipartisan “Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act,” which led the State Department to ban Chinese officials from entering the United States over their role in keeping American journalists diplomats, and ordinary citizens out of Tibet.

In 2020, Congress passed the bipartisan Tibetan Policy and Support Act, which upgraded US support for the Tibetan people and made it official American policy that only the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhist community can decide on his successor, with the US pledging to sanction any Chinese officials who interfere in that process.

It is also noteworthy that as the Presidential Candidate, Joe Biden had promised to “work with our allies in pressing Beijing to return to direct dialogue with the representatives of the Tibetan people to achieve meaningful autonomy.” The Biden Administration has appointed Uzra Zeya, the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, as the new US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.

In the G-7 summit held in Germany last month, Biden led the democratic leaders of the world, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who was a special invitee, to condemn, among other Chinese atrocities and violations of human rights, the PRC’s repression in Tibet.

Incidentally, the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s highest spiritual and political leader, turned 87 on July 7. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi had greeted him on his birthday, something that drew sharp Chinese reactions.

Beijing said, “The Indian side also needs to fully understand the anti-China and separatist nature of the 14th Dalai Lama. It needs to abide by its commitments to China on Tibet-related issues, act and speak with prudence and stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs.

Tibet-related affairs and brook no interference by any external forces. China firmly opposes all contact between foreign officials and the Dalai Lama.”

In New Delhi, India rejected China’s criticism over Prime Minister Modi’s birthday greetings to the Dalai Lama, asserting that it is a consistent government policy to treat the Tibetan spiritual leader as an honored guest.

“It is a consistent policy of the government of India to treat His Holiness Dalai Lama as an honored guest in India and as a respected religious leader who enjoys a large following in India,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.

His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, is the highest spiritual figure in Tibetan Buddhism and the founder of the Tibetan government-in-exile, based in Dharamsala in northern India (the state of Himachal Pradesh).

He had fled to India in 1959 after a failed Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule. By all accounts, he is in good health, but questions about his successor become more complicated with each birthday. Beijing claims that it has the right to anoint its successor. But countries like the United States and India do not think so.

Under Tibetan Buddhism, each Dalai Lama is a tulku, a reincarnated custodian of the teachings of Avalokiteśvara, the bodhisattva (enlightened being) of compassion. When a Dalai Lama dies, it usually takes years to identify his reincarnated form.

Senior monks interpret signs from the Dalai Lama’s death and taking into account various clues, they identify his reincarnation in some part of Tibet and adjoining areas, usually a child. They then enthrone the child as the next Dalai Lama.

Communist China has disregarded this tradition for centuries. It says that the central government must approve the next Dalai Lama under Chinese law.

  • Author and veteran journalist Prakash Nanda has been commenting on politics, foreign policy on strategic affairs for nearly three decades. A former National Fellow of the Indian Council for Historical Research and recipient of the Seoul Peace Prize Scholarship, he is also a Distinguished Fellow at the Institute of Peace and Conflict Studies. CONTACT: [email protected]
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