By Choekyi Lhamo
DHARAMSHALA, JAN 29: The US House of Representatives passes the Tibet Policy Support Act (TPSA) 2019 with an overwhelming majority of 392-22 votes on Tuesday. America’s support for human rights and environmental protection in Tibet sends a strong message to the Chinese government which challenges the regime in various degrees. The Act is a revised bill from Tibet Policy Act in 2002 which ensures “the new inclusions like environmental issues, religious freedom and reincarnation, CTA and democratization as per the vision of His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and the funding for the Tibetans inside and outside Tibet,” Sikyong Lobsang Sangay spoke during the press briefing at Department of Information and International Relations (DIIR).
President of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) expressed his gratitude to the House, “I want to thank honorable speaker Nancy Pelosi, Congressman Jim McGovern and all the other congressmen who spoke on the floor of the House for the support of the bill. Initially, the way the bill was brought to the House, it took many years, and we moved our Office of Tibet from New York to Washington D.C. purposely so that we can reach out to the US Government and Congress directly.”
Chinese foreign ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said the passage of the act encourages “forces seeking Tibet independence”. The statement further added that “The issues about Tibet are not ethnic and religion problems. They are also not human rights issues. It is about the important principle of China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” South China Morning Post reports.
“It should be clear that we support a positive and productive US-China relationship but it is essential that human rights of all the people of China are respected by their government,” said the bill’s sponsor, James McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts. The overwhelming majority vote for the act now awaits a vote in the Senate sponsored by Republican Marco Rubio.
The bipartisan TPSA, which McGovern and Rubio introduced in Congress in the fall of 2019, will make it official US policy that only the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhist community can decide on his succession and will sanction any Chinese officials who attempt to appoint their own Dalai Lama in the future. TPSA will also address water security and climate change, formalize assistance to Tibetans, push for negotiations between China and Dalai Lama and Tibetan leaders, and to open a new consulate in Lhasa if China is to open a new consulate in the US.
“In initial discussions (about the bill), there was an element of concern that if we bring this revised bill, and if the bill doesn’t pass, it sends a wrong message. It will be a major setback for the Tibetan cause but we have overcome that. To get this overwhelming support of 392 votes in support of the bill is a major boost to the Tibetan cause,” Sikyong told the press this morning. He also mentioned the recent agreement between China and other Asian countries which have chosen to ignore human rights violations in Tibet, “The Chinese government is putting a lot of pressure around the world on Tibet as we can see the agreements that they signed with Nepal and Myanmar (Burma), it specifically includes Tibet provisions whereas the American government is saying that we are with the Tibetan people.”