Does the US plan to recognize Tibet as an independent country? In a bid to increase pressure on China, a Congress member in the US has introduced a bill that aims to recognize Tibet as an independent country and challenge One China Policy.
U.S. Congressman Scott Perry introduced a bill in the US Congress last week which directly challenges Chinese claims over Tibet. The bill, H.R. 6948, would authorise the U.S. President to recognise the Tibet Autonomous Region of the People’s Republic of China “as a separate, independent country, and for other purposes”. The bill was also referred to the House Committee on Foreign Affairs.
Perry, a war veteran from Pennsylvania, has also introduced a similar bill for Hong Kong. For the bill to become law it has to pass the House and the Senate before it goes to the President for the seal of approval.
The introduction of the bill comes after earlier this month, the US Senate gave nod to a legislation to block Chinese firms from getting listed on the American stock exchanges. According to experts at EurAsian Times, these decisions come at the time when the US is looking to mount pressure of China for its mishandling of the virus and relentless bullying in Asia.
Tibetans Welcome Move
The introduction of the bill has been enthusiastically welcomed by Tibetans everywhere. Many prominent Tibetans took to social media to applaud the move by Washington which has raised faint hopes of independence from Chinese occupation.
Tenzin Tsundue, a poet, writer, and Tibetan activist based in New Delhi shared his thoughts on his Facebook and welcomed the move and labelled the bill introduced Scott Perry as a good move.
Another Tibetan writer and political activist, Tenzin Dorjee, also shared the news about the bill. New York-based Dorjee encouraged fellow Tibetans and supporters to write to Rep. Perry’s office to thank and praise him for this unprecedented initiative.
Many Uighurs, an ethnic Muslim group, have also welcomed the decision by Rep. Perry. China has been on the receiving end of condemnation from the international community for forcing ethnic Uighurs to be interned in concentration camps in Xinjiang.
Estimates suggest that 1-2 million Uighur Muslims from Kazakhstan and China have been detained in Chinese camps for ‘de-radicalization’ purposes.
The Tibet Dispute
To understand the Tibetan dispute, one must go back a century. Tibet declared independence after the collapse of the Qing dynasty in 1912 and functioned as an independent protectorate until 1950.
The situation changed when communist China, under Mao Zedong, wrested control from Tibet a year after the Chinese civil war.
The Tibetans signed a 17 point agreement handing over its sovereignty to Beijing, the first time China ever exercised control over the region. The Chinese use the same document as proof of Chinese sovereignty over the pristine Himalayan region while the Tibetans claim that they were forced to sign the document.
Currently, the region is administered by China as the Tibetan Autonomous Region. Tibetans accuse China of carrying out large scale human right violations as well as changing the ethnic makeup of the region by encouraging large scale migration of Chinese Han people.
Often referred to as the ‘roof of the world’, Tibet is strategically important to China. It allows Chinese access to India due to its proximity and can be used as an airbase at the time of crisis, such as in the present Sino-Indian conflict.
India got involved in the Tibet dispute after it offered refuge to Dalai Lama, the leader of the exiled Tibetan government, in Mcleodganj in 1959. Since then India has given shelter to many Tibetan refugees at odds with the Chinese government and this has led to an increase in Sino-Indian tensions.
For the US, the issue of Tibet has come to life after decades. The CIA covertly supported indigenous Tibetan uprisings in the 1950s but this stopped after Richard Nixon came to power in 1971.
While it is unlikely that the US goes to war with China over Tibet, the latest bill can be used to deter Chinese expansionist ambitions in both Asia and the Pacific. China has made provocative moves in the South China Sea, Strait of Taiwan, Hong Kong and near the Line of Actual Control with India.