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Bill supporting Tibet’s right to self-determination reintroduced in US Congress

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(TibetanReview.net, Feb09’23) – The US Congress has renewed its commitment to the unresolved issue of Tibet at the beginning of its new legislative year by reintroducing a landmark bill that seeks to pressure China to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s envoys. The bill questions the legitimacy of the Chinese rule in Tibet in the absence of a negotiated solution on the territory’s future and makes clear the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination.

The legislation was previously introduced in the House of Representatives on Jul 13 and in the Senate on Dec 20 last year.

The bill, titled as “Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act” or simply the “Resolve Tibet Act”, was reintroduced in the two chambers by Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.; Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas; Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind., per their announcement on Feb 8.

Left to right: Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass.; Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas; Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore.; and Sen. Todd Young, R-Ind.

The bill seeks to make it official US policy that China must resume dialogue with envoys of the Dalai Lama, that the conflict between Tibet and China continues be unresolved, and that Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law.

The bill also recognized the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination.

The bill also makes it clear that Tibet includes not only the so-called “Tibet Autonomous Region” of the People’s Republic of China but also historically Tibetan areas that have illegally been incorporated into Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai and Yunnan provinces.

Envoys of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, and Chinese party-government representatives held 10 rounds of talks over 2002-2010. The dialogue, seen as meant to find a common ground for holding negotiations, has remained stalled since then.

In the meanwhile, China remains bent on fully implementing what is seen as a campaign of cultural genocide of the Tibetan people under President Xi Jinping renewed Sinicization drive.

China forced Tibetans to sign a 17-point annexation agreement in 1951 under the euphemism of liberation, but then failed to abide by any of the terms drafted by itself, compelling Tibet’s then temporal head and spiritual leader to flee his homeland in 1959 to establish a government in exile.

The bill is only the latest in a series on Tibet to be taken up or passed in the US Congress in the recent past. In 2020, the Congress passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act, which dramatically upgraded US support for Tibet, including by asserting that China does not have the authority to interfere in the reincarnation process of the Dalai Lama. Before that, in 2018, the Congress passed the Access to Tibet Act, which pushed China to allow US journalists, diplomats and ordinary citizens to visit Tibet in the same way its own people are allowed open access in the US.

Representative McGovern is Ranking Member of the House Rules Committee and a member of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China. Representative McCaul is Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee. Senator Merkley is the co-chair of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Young is a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China.

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