US Senate passes Tibet bill in show of support

The US Capitol is seen behind melting snow in Washington, DC, US, on 17 December 2020.

The US Capitol is seen behind melting snow in Washington, DC, US, on 17 December 2020. File photo/Reuters/Erin Scott

Tibet Sun Newsroom

McLEOD GANJ, India, 22 December 2020

The United States Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Monday passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 (TPSA), which has remained pending since May 2020 due to the Coronavirus pandemic.

The bill was rolled into the 5,593-page government funding bill that includes the Coronavirus pandemic stimulus legislation of approximately $900 billion.

With a strong bipartisan approval in the Senate, the TPSA will now go to the White House to be signed into law by President Donald Trump. The US House of Representatives had passed the bill by an overwhelming margin in January this year.

Due to the unprecedented challenges posed by the pandemic this year, senators were not able to bring the legislation to the floor in time for a vote. It was because of this that the TPSA was attached to the government spending bill.

The TPSA is an upgrade of the Tibet Policy Act of 2002, addressing the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people, including human rights, environmental protection, religious freedom, and democracy.

It demands that Beijing grant Washington a US consulate in Tibet, and paves the way for sanctions against Chinese officials who interfere in the succession of the Dalai Lama. It also strengthens funding for Tibetans inside and outside Tibet.

Section 342 of the bill outlines a “statement of policy regarding the succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.” China has made new laws to choose its own Dalai Lama, whereas Tibetans say atheist China has no role to play in his succession, which is a religious and traditional matter of the Tibetan people.

The 85-year-old 14th Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, has lived in exile in India after escaping from Tibet in 1959 following the Chinese invasion. He has set up his exile base in McLeod Ganj, from where he rallies for a negotiated settlement seeking autonomy for Tibet rather than independence.

“Tibetan Buddhism is practiced in many countries including Bhutan, India, Mongolia, Nepal, the People’s Republic of China, the Russian Federation, and the United States, yet the Government of the People’s Republic of China has repeatedly insisted on its role in managing the selection of Tibet’s next spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, through actions such as those described in the ‘Measures on the Management of the Reincarnation of Living Buddhas’ in 2007,” the bill explains.

The bill directs the US government to issue economic and visa sanctions against any Chinese official deemed “complicit in identifying or installing a government-approved candidate” to succeed the Dalai Lama.

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