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US bills on China-competition strengthen support for Tibet issue

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(TibetanReview.net, Feb10’22) – The America COMPETES Act of 2022, the first of a series of such Acts first signed by President George W Bush on Aug 9, 2007, which is viewed as treating China as a strategic rival, has significant provisions relating to the issue of Tibet and has been condemned by Beijing. The 2022 bill was passed by the US House of Representatives on Feb 4. It followed the passage of a similar legislation, the US Innovation and Competition Act, by the Senate on Jun 8, 2021.

The Act reaffirms US policy rejecting China’s interference in the selection of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, elevates the role of the special coordinator for Tibetan issues in the State Department, creates a Tibet desk at the US Embassy in Beijing and more, said Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) Feb 9.

“Tibet is a core interest of the United States, so it’s crucial that the Tibet provisions of the bill remain intact as the House and Senate work to finalize any comprehensive legislation,” Franz Matzner, ICT’s government relations director has said.

Under the two acts which the House and Senate should work to consolidate, the president must appoint a special coordinator on Tibetan issues with the advice and consent of the Senate, or the appointee should already hold the rank of undersecretary or above, given that under President Donald Trump, a lower ranking State Department official was appointed to the post towards the end of his term.

The two bills reaffirm US policy regarding the Dalai Lama’s succession or reincarnation, as well as the religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists, as enshrined in the Tibetan Policy and Support Act, which became law in Dec 2020. Under it, only the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhist community can decide what happens with his succession. And if Chinese officials try to interfere in that process, they will face US sanctions.

In order to ensure a US diplomatic representation relating to Tibet, the bills require a Tibet unit to be established in the political section of the US Embassy in Beijing.

The bills strengthen the 2018 US Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which pushes for equal access to Tibet for American officials, journalists and ordinary citizens, by increasing the US’s ability to provide diplomatic support in Tibet.

The bills contain a number of other Tibet-related provisions as well, including providing Tibetan language training for staff at the US Embassy in Beijing, mandating a report that will evaluate the contribution of corporate entities to China’s human rights abuses and repression of religious and ethnic groups like Uyghurs and Tibetans, an annual reporting on the Chinese government’s efforts to censor or punish speech in other countries, including related to the oppression of Tibetans, and so forth.

China has condemned the House bill, as it did the Senate one. “It defames China’s development path and its domestic and foreign policies, agitates strategic competition against China and makes irresponsible remarks on issues related to Taiwan, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and Tibet,” China’s official chinadaily.com.cn Feb 8 quoted Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian Zhao as saying at a news briefing in Beijing on Feb 7.

The bills primarily focus on encouraging and strengthening American scientific and technological innovation and R&D to boost the country’s competitiveness.

In a statement supporting the House bill, President Joe Biden has said: “I’m heartened by Congress’ bipartisan work so far, and its commitment to quick action to get this to my desk as soon as possible. Together, we have an opportunity to show China and the rest of the world that the 21st century will be the American century – forged by the ingenuity and hard work of our innovators, workers, and businesses.”

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