A new bill to strengthen U.S. policy in support of Tibet moved forward in the U.S. Congress this week, with unanimous approval given on Wednesday by the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
The Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA) of 2019 will next go the House for a floor vote. No date for that vote has yet been scheduled, however.
Co-sponsored by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), the TPSA when signed into law will require China to allow the opening of a U.S. consulate in Tibet’s regional capital Lhasa before any new Chinese consulate can open in the United States.
It will also address water security and climate change issues in Tibet and strengthen the still-unfilled State Department office of the Special Coordinator for Tibet.
Finally, it will establish a U.S. policy that the selection of Tibetan religious leaders, including future successors to exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, is a decision to be made by Tibetans free from Chinese government interference.
Sanctions targeting Chinese officials attempting to name a new Dalai Lama will also be mandated under the bill.
The question of who will select a successor to the now 84-year-old Dalai Lama is a major point of friction between China, which insists on its right to choose the religious leader’s reincarnation, and Tibetans inside their homeland and around the world.
A formerly independent nation, Tibet was taken over and incorporated into China by force 70 years ago, following which the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India.
Chinese authorities now maintain a tight grip on Tibet and on Tibetan-populated regions of western Chinese provinces, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identities, and subjecting Tibetans to imprisonment, torture, and extrajudicial killings.