By Choekyi Lhamo
Sen. Angus King, Sen. Marco Rubio and Rep. James McGovern share the CECC's 2019 report at a press conference on Jan 8 (ICT)
DHARAMSHALA, JAN 9: Congressional-Executive Commission on China (CECC) urged action on Tibet as the US House representatives hope that Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TSPA) may pass in the Senate next week, reports International Campaign for Tibet (ICT)
. During the release of the annual report published by CECC, Rep. James McGovern said, “My hope is that it will be considered next week, Marco Rubio has the identical bill in the Senate, and I expect it will pass in the Senate as well.” Sen. Marco Rubio, who introduced the Bill with McGovern, is also the co-chair of the committee.
The House Foreign Affairs Committee passed TPSA on Dec 18 and a Senate version of the legislation has also been introduced by Rubio and Sen. Ben Cardin. The act will urge China to stay out of the reincarnation of the next Dalai Lama, allow access to unrestricted regions in Tibet and acknowledge the role of flawed Chinese policies which result in self-immolations. These are just some of the recommendations in the Tibet section of the CECC’s annual report released on Wednesday. The report has many findings including the Chinese government crackdowns on previously allowed religious practices while expanding mass surveillance and damaging Tibet’s environment which plays a crucial role in the global ecosystem.
These efforts of ‘Sinicization’ includes subjecting monks and nuns to “political education”, banning religious classes and ordering Tibetans to replace the photo of His Holiness the Dalai Lama with images of Mao Zedong and president of the communist party, Xi Jinping. One of the most criticized moves of the Chinese Party was their claim of authority over the next reincarnation of the Tibetan leader who was forced into exile more than 6 decades ago.
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 update the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 which addresses water security and climate change, formalizes assistance to Tibetans, pushes for negotiations between China and Dalai Lama and Tibetan leaders, and to open a new consulate in Lhasa if China opens a new consulate in the US.
The US government urges China to show reciprocity by letting foreigners into Tibet as they have denied visas “to conceal human rights abuses and environmentally damaging large-scale projects, such as river damming and mining, and to promote the claim that Tibetans benefit from and support the Party and its actions.” The report also calls for the release of Tibetans who are “currently detained or imprisoned for the peaceful exercise of their human rights”, such as the language rights activist Tashi Wangchuk who was sentenced to prison for five years in 2018.
The report also recognizes the “restrictive Party policies and government measures” of Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR) where self-immolations and protests have been witnessed in the reporting year 2019 as the recent death of Yonten (24) becomes the 165th person to have self-immolated since 2008. Another important point of the annual report noted that Tibet’s environment has also suffered as “scientists and Tibetan groups note that many government actions on the Tibetan plateau exacerbate climate change, resulting in glacial melting, permafrost degradation, and desertification of grasslands.” Tibet is also the source of many of Asia’s major rivers from which more than 1 billion people downstream receive water from Tibet, making China a threat to the stability of Tibet’s environment.