President Donald Trump Sunday signed into law a bill that reaffirms the right of Tibetans to choose a successor to the Dalai Lama and calls for establishing an American consulate in Tibet.
Not surprisingly, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said the act will seriously disrupt and hurt China-US relations. The Chinese government firmly resolves to safeguard national sovereignty and security, and strongly urges the US to stop using Tibet-related and Taiwan-related issues to interfere in China's internal affairs, Zhao said.
The Tibet bill's approval came almost a year after it breezed through the House of Representatives. The bill was introduced in September 2019 by Senator Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican and Representative Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts.
It authorizes assistance to non-governmental organizations in support of Tibetan communities in Tibet; places restrictions on new Chinese consulates in the United States until a US consulate has been established in Lhasa, Tibet.
The law now authorizes the Office of the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues and expands the office's duties to include additional tasks, such as pursuing international coalitions to ensure that the next Dalai Lama is appointed solely by the Tibetan Buddhist faith community.
It also directs the Secretary of State not to open a new Chinese consulate in the US unless China allows the opening of an American consulate in Lhasa.
It is the policy of the US to take all appropriate measures to hold accountable senior officials of the Chinese Government or the Chinese Communist Party who directly interfere with the identification and installation of the future 15th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, the successor to the 14th Dalai Lama.
Beijing views the 14th Dalai Lama as a "separatist" working to split Tibet from China.
Noting that the 14th Dalai Lama advocates the Middle Way Approach, which seeks genuine autonomy for the six million Tibetans in Tibet, the new law says that the Dalai Lama has overseen a process of democratization within the Tibetan polity and devolved his political responsibilities to the elected 23 representatives of the Tibetan people in exile in 2011.
The Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 approves $1 million per annum for the Special US Coordinator on Tibet, $675,000 towards scholarship provisions, $575,000 for scholar exchange initiatives, $8 million for the Tibetan Autonomous Regio and Communities in China, $6 million for Tibetans living in India, $3 million for Tibetan governance.
Expressing concern over the exploitation of natural resources of Tibet, in particular water, the new law seeks to pursue collaborative efforts with Chinese and international scientific institutions, to monitor the environment on the Tibetan Plateau, including glacial retreat, temperature rise, and carbon levels, to promote a greater understanding of the effects on permafrost, the river flows, grasslands and desertification and the monsoon cycle.
Tibetan government in exile
President of the India-based Central Tibetan Administration (the Tibetan government in exile), Dr. Lobsang Sangay called it a landmark bill that the US Congress has passed on Tibet in the last 20 years.
The bill recognizes the CTA as the official representative of Tibetan Diaspora all over the world.
He told the Tibetan TV, the US acknowledges CTA and the Tibetan freedom movement. "The fact that Washington DC is acknowledging the Tibetan movement is a huge political statement, particularly, to the Tibetans inside Tibet."
Tellingly, Dr. Lobsang Sangay visited Washington last November for lobbying for the Tibet bill. He also met the newly appointed US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Robert Destro.
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