US Congress passes Tibetan Policy and Support Act

US Congress passes Tibetan Policy and Support Act, making it official policy on Tibetan rights

This would enable the US to apply sanctions on China, if it were to choose a Beijing-loyalist as the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama. Credit: Reuters Photo

The United States Congress has passed landmark legislation, reaffirming the rights of the Tibetan Buddhists to choose the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama without any interference of China.

The US Senate passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA) of 2020 early Tuesday. The US House of Representatives had already passed it earlier.

The proposed legislation, once signed into law by President Donald Trump, would make it the official policy of the US Government to “oppose any effort by the Government of the People’s Republic of China to select, educate, and venerate Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders in a manner inconsistent with Tibetan Buddhism in which the succession or identification of Tibetan Buddhist lamas, including the Dalai Lama, should occur without interference, in a manner consistent with Tibetan Buddhists’ beliefs."

The TPSA 2020 passed by the US Congress has been hailed by the Tibetans, who were concerned over the possibility of the Chinese Government making an attempt to install someone loyal to it as the 15th Dalai Lama after the death of the incumbent and use him as a puppet to fizzle out the global campaign against its occupation of Tibet. The proposed legislation will empower the US Government to impose sanctions on the Chinese Government officials, who might try to interfere in the process of selecting the next incarnation of the Dalai Lama, just as they had done in case of Panchen Lama.

The incumbent and the 14th Dalai Lama has been living in exile in India ever since his 1959 escape from Tibet, which had been occupied by the Chinese People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in 1950-51. He has been leading the movement for “genuine autonomy” for Tibet and the Tibetans.

But as the Nobel laureate Buddhist monk turned 85 on July 6 this year, speculation is rife over the fate of the movement beyond his lifetime.

“The TPSA 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,” said Lobsang Sangay, the Sikyong (President) of the Tibetan Government-in-Exile, formally known as the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA), based at Dharamshala in Tibet. “We have been pushing for this for the last two years. This is a victory for the Tibetan freedom struggle.” The Bill passed by the US Congress also acknowledged the legitimacy of the Tibetan Parliament in Exile elected by the exiled community as well as the CTA.

The TPSA seeks to introduce 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.