Before he leaves the White House, US President Donald Trump has ensured that his successor will not have much leverage in compromising on American commitments to have a US Consulate in Tibet and impose sanctions against Chinese officials who interfere in the Dalai Lama’s succession.
On Monday night, the United States Senate passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 (TPSA). The Bill had already been passed in the US House of Representatives in January this year. And importantly, the Bill got the bipartisan support of both the Democrats and the Republicans.
The TPSA will now be presented to President Trump to sign it into law.
The TPSA makes it an official US policy that decisions regarding the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama are exclusively within the authority of the current Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist leaders, and the Tibetan people. Any interference by Chinese government officials will be met with serious sanctions and deemed inadmissible into the United States.
Built on the historic Tibet Policy Act of 2002, the TPSA addresses every aspect of the Tibetan people’s fundamental right, including human rights, environmental rights, religious freedom, and Tibetan democracy-in-exile. It also strengthens funding for Tibetans inside and outside Tibet.
The bipartisan supported bill commends His Holiness the Dalai Lama for his decision to implement democratic governance and also commends the Tibetan exile community for successfully adopting a system of self-governance with democratic institutions to choose their leaders.
Chinese #PLA soldiers who entered #Leh #Ladakh is clear indication that #China want destabilize Indo-Tibetan friendship, be watchful Ladakhi & Indian people, #ITBP must intervene#FreeTibet #PMModi #IndiaChinaFaceOff #CCP #XiJinping #ChineseVirus #SFF #US https://t.co/AixxEhNKaB
— Tibetans (@TibetPeople) December 21, 2020
In addition, it formally acknowledges the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) as the legitimate institution reflecting the aspirations of the Tibetan Diaspora around the world and the Sikyong as the President of the CTA.
Sikyong (President) Dr Lobsang Sangay, the democratically elected leader of the Tibetan-government-in-exile at Dharmsala in India’s Himachal Pradesh, has thanked the United States Congress for passing this monumental bill on Tibet, especially House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority leader Mitch McConnell for supporting the bill.
He also has thanked Congressmen Jim McGovern and Chris Smith, Senators Marco Rubio and Ben Cardin for their “extraordinary leadership” in introducing the bill in the House and the Senate.
“The Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 is a tribute to the great legacy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and to the courage and solidarity of six million Tibetans inside Tibet,” says Sangay. “We have been pushing for this for the last two years. This is a victory for the Tibetan freedom struggle.”
Another noteworthy aspect of the TPSA is that it introduces new key provisions aimed at protecting the environment and water resources on the Tibetan plateau. It recognizes the importance of traditional Tibetan grassland stewardship in mitigating the negative effects of climate change in the region as opposed to the Chinese government’s forced resettlement of the nomads from grasslands.
In addition, it calls for greater international cooperation to monitor the environment on the Tibetan plateau, including the health of the rivers.
American citizens and companies engaged in business activities in Tibet are encouraged under this Bill to practice corporate social responsibility and to adhere to the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.
Importantly, in order to promote access to Tibet as enumerated in the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which was signed into law in 2018, the TPSA calls for the establishment of a United States Consulate in Lhasa, the capital city of Tibet. Until such an establishment, the bill calls upon the Secretary of State to not authorize any new Chinese consulate in the United States.
It may be noted that the TPSA follows Lobsang Sangay’s first and official entry as the President of the Government-in-Exile into the United States State Department in October this year and then the White House in November — a visit which garnered significant international media coverage.
The Tibetan government-in-exile, which has so far not been recognized by any country, was often in the past denied entry to the US administration buildings. The logic for both denials was that the US government does not recognize the Tibetan government-in-exile. But his visit allowed by the Trump administration, and that too to the White House, was historic in more senses than one.
“Whether all this amounts to a virtual recognition of the Tibetan government or not can be argued. It is, however, certain that the outgoing US President, who will soon leave his job (and his house), is keen to put his successor in front of as many fait-accomplis as possible”, says veteran Tibet watcher Claude Arpi.
Arpi, a French scholar, who is based in South India, says that some parts of the US legislation should trigger a re-thinking of India’s Tibet policy. Take the example of the US Statement of Policy on Reincarnation of Dalai Lama: “The wishes of the 14th Dalai Lama, including any written instructions, should play a determinative role in the selection, education, and veneration of a future 15th Dalai Lama.”
— TibetanReview (@TibetanReview) December 21, 2020
Arpi asks, “Why can’t South Block (India’s Ministry of External Affairs) simply state that it will support all the decisions taken by the Dalai Lama in the matter of his reincarnation and will welcome the 15th Dalai Lama as an honored guest of India like the present pontiff has been since 1959?”
Secondly, regarding the preservation of the Tibetan plateau’s environment and water resources, the US bill “recognizes the key role of Tibetan plateau as it contains glaciers, rivers, grasslands, and other geographical and ecological features that are crucial for supporting vegetation growth and biodiversity, regulating water flow and supply for an estimated 1.8 billion people.”
This is particularly significant for the rivers like the Indus and the Brahmaputra which originate in Tibet, particularly in the wake of China trying to change the course and water-flow of the Brahmaputra that will have serious repercussions in India’s Northeast as well as Bangladesh.
Arpi says, “America is far away, but it is India which will suffer the brunt of the climate change on the Third Pole and the intensive damming on the Roof of the World. It is a great pity that Delhi keeps mum on the subject.”