(TibetanReview.net, Dec22’20) – The United States Congress has on Dec 21 approved a long-pending, nearly 6,000-page coronavirus relief legislation which among other main things demands that Beijing grant Washington a US consulate in Tibet and paves the way for sanctions against Chinese officials who interfere in the succession of the Dalai Lama.

The Tibet Policy and Support Act (TPSA) moved through Congress as an amendment to this year’s US$1.4 trillion government spending bill, the legislation that will fund the US government for the coming fiscal year. The omnibus spending bill, which was rolled together with a US$900 billion coronavirus relief package, will next travel to the White House to be signed into law.

The bill, which supports the maintenance of Tibetan human rights and religious freedom in Chinese ruled Tibet, says the United States will seek to hold accountable senior Chinese officials who directly interfere in the process of selecting the successor to the Dalai Lama.

Such interference would be viewed as a clear abuse of the right to religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists and the Tibetan people and Chinese officials responsible for them could be sanctioned and prohibited from entering the United States.

The bill also urges the US government to deny authorization of any additional Chinese consulates until a US consulate is permitted to be established in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

“It is the policy of the United States that decisions regarding the selection, education, and veneration of Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders are exclusively spiritual matters that should be made by the appropriate religious authorities within the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and in the context of the will of practitioners of Tibetan Buddhism,” the relevant passage of the bill reads in part.

It goes on to state that “the wishes of the 14th Dalai Lama, including any written instructions, should play a key role in the selection, education, and veneration of a future 15th Dalai Lama.”

The coronavirus relief bill, which has been pending for a long time, warns that “interference by the Government of the People’s Republic of China or any other government in the process of recognizing a successor or reincarnation of the 14th Dalai Lama and any future Dalai Lamas would represent a clear abuse of the right to religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists and the Tibetan people.”

And the bill goes on to say: “It is the policy of the United States to take all appropriate measures to hold accountable senior officials of the Government of the People’s Republic of China or the Chinese Communist Party who directly interfere with the identification and installation of the future 15th Dalai Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, successor to the 14th Dalai Lama.”

Senators were not able to bring the Tibet legislation to the floor in time for a vote, so they included the TPSA in the spending bill that Congress passed today, Dec 21, 2020, said Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) which had lobbied for the legislation, including with an address at a Congressional hearing by its board Chairman and Hollywood star Richard Gere.

Following the legislation’s passage, ICT said: “By passing the TPSA, Congress has not only upgraded its overall support for Tibet, but specifically laid a marker down on the global stage declaring that the international community will not accept China’s interference in the Dalai Lama’s succession and will oppose China’s human rights abuses in Tibet for as long as they continue. China’s plan to appoint the next Dalai Lama is the culmination of its decades-long effort to destroy the Tibetan people’s unique religion, culture and identity, as well as their sacred and globally important environment. We thank the United States for its bold leadership and look forward to other countries adopting their own versions of this legislation.”

The Central Tibetan Administration in exile at Dharamshala, India, has also hailed the legislation’s passage. “By passing the TPSA, Congress has sent its message loud and clear that Tibet remains a priority for the United States and that it will continue its steadfast support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the CTA. … It is a momentous landmark for the Tibetan people,” its executive head, Sikyong Lobsang Sangay, has said Dec 22.

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