(TibetanReview.net, Dec21’22) – A bill recognizing Tibet as an occupied territory and the Tibetan people’s right to self-determination while calling on China to peacefully resolve the issue by resuming negotiations with envoys of the Dalai Lama, Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, has been introduced in the US Senate on Dec 20.
The bill for Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act was introduced by Senators Jeff Merkley (D-Ore), Todd Young (R-Ind), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt). It is a companion to the House version introduced in July by Representatives Jim McGovern (D-Mass) and Michael McCaul (R-Texas).
The bipartisan, bicameral legislation represents Congress’s intent to make it US government policy that a resumption of dialogue is needed as the conflict between Tibet and China is unresolved and Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law.
The bills’ introductions have come in the wake of a recent surge in US support for Tibet, including several new laws passed in the last few years, sanctions imposed on Chinese officials who have violated Tibetan human rights, and statements by President Joe Biden and his administration calling on China to resume direct dialogue toward guaranteeing a meaningful autonomy to the Tibetan people.
As a result of China’s occupation and extreme human rights abuses, Tibet is now the least-free country on Earth alongside South Sudan and Syria, according to successive annual reports of the watchdog group Freedom House.
What the proposed legislation, the Resolve Tibet Act, intends is to make it an official US government stand that Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law. It seeks to reject as “historically false” China’s claim that Tibet has been part of China since ancient times. It therefore also seeks to recognize the fact that Tibetans have a right to self-determination under international law and that China’s policies preclude them from exercising that right. And it seeks to fault the Chinese government for failing to meet expectations of participating in dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives. What is more, the proposed legislation also seeks to make it clear that Tibet includes not only the so-called “Tibet Autonomous Region of China” but also the historically Tibetan areas that now constitute the while or parts of Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai, and Yunnan provinces.
Introducing the bill, Senator Jeff Merkley has said: “America’s values supporting freedom and self-determination for all people must be at the center of all of our actions and relationships around the world—especially as the Chinese government pushes an alternative vision. This legislation makes clear that the United States views the Tibet-China conflict as unresolved and that the people of Tibet deserve a say in how they are governed. It sends a clear message to the People’s Republic of China: we expect meaningful negotiations over Tibet’s status and do not view current Chinese government actions as meeting those expectations.”
Senator Jeff Merkley is Co–chair of the Congressional Executive Commission on China, Senator Todd Young a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senator Patrick Leahy has a long record of lending strong support for the resolution of the issue of Tibet.