News and Views on Tibet

Opinion: New Bill in the US Congress -A new beginning for Tibet

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By Vijay Kranti

Foreign Relations Committee of US Senate clears way for the new US law which recognizes Tibet as an ‘Occupied Country’, CHOLKA-SUM as the ‘Real Tibet’ and shows the world how to reject Xi Jinping’s ‘One China Policy’

On 16 April the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee put its stamp of approval on a Tibet related bipartisan Bill (HR-533) which was passed two months ago on 15 February by the House of Representatives with a near unanimous and thunderous majority (392 to 28). This approval of the Committee practically removes the last hurdle towards passage of the bill into a law that is going to pave way for America and encourage the world community to reject and challenge the ‘One China Policy’ of President Xi Jinping  and his Chinese Communist Party. Once passed and signed by President Biden into a US law, it is bound to give new hope to people of Tibet, Xinjiang, Hong Kong and millions of others who are colonized by China. This bill formally announces Tibet as ‘Occupied Country’; CHOLKA-SUM as the ‘Real Tibet’ and tell the world that the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet have the exclusive right to decide about the next Dalai Lama and all future reincarnate Tulkus.

In response to President Xi’s ever increasing rogue and bully behavior and his challenge  to world order in general and the super powers status of United States of America in particular, the resolve of the US policy and strategy makers at the Capitol Hill in Washington too seems to have started shifting gears. This bill proves beyond doubt that the US has started not only standing up to President Xi Jinping’s bullying but also hitting his communist regime where it hurts most. A similar series of bills and resolutions on Xinjiang, another colony which China occupied two years before Tibet in 1949 and renamed it from ‘East Turkistan’ to ‘Xinjiang Uyghur Autonomous Region’ (XUAR), too reflects USA’s new approach towards challenging Xi’s bullying and his  ‘One China Policy’. The current Tibet related bill further strengthens and sharpens the US Congress’ earlier ‘Tibetan Policy Act of 2002’ (TPA-2002) which was later revised in January 2020.

This bill is a decisive response to President Xi and China’s six decade long aggressive campaign of making world believe that the geography of ‘Tibet’ is limited only to ‘Tibet Autonomous Region’ (TAR) which Mao had created by reorganizing occupied Tibet in 1965. In the ‘Definition’ part (Section-622) of this bill the US Congress has removed whatever ambiguity which has been created by China on formally defining what constitutes the real ‘Tibet’. In the two parts of this section the Bill makes it clear that the term ‘Tibet’ refers not merely to TAR alone but it also includes all those parts of Tibetan provinces of Kham and Amdo which were scooped out of Tibet and were distributed to adjoining Chinese provinces of Yunnan, Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai. It is worth nothing that the dialogue process between the exiled Dalai Lama and Beijing has remained stalled since late 1970s simply because China has been consistently insisting that only TAR means ‘Tibet’ whereas Dalai Lama and his representatives have been insisting on including Kham and Amdo also in the negotiations as integral parts of Tibet. While this new US assertion on geographic definition of Tibet will add to the moral strength of Dalai Lama and fellow Tibetan people but it is going to irritate President Xi enormously.

This bill reflects a qualitative change in the US approach towards Tibet and China. It removes the ambiguity and half-heartedness of which was visible in the conduct of most of previous US governments in approach on the Tibetan cause. Just two examples should be enough. One is the oft repeated statement of many US Presidents and other US leaders whenever they were confronted by their Chinese counterparts on the issue of Tibet. The stock US response used to be that, “No policy of the US administration is based on the assumption that Tibet is not a part of China.” The other example is the funny, rather timid act of President Barak Obama on February 19 in 2010 when, just to avoid the media cameras and the subsequent annoyance of the Chinese government, he walked the visiting Dalai Lama to the back door through the dirty laundry of the White House.

However, in a clear contrast to the previous ambiguity the present bill and its larger form of ‘Tibet Policy Act 2002’ (amended and passed in 2020 and also known as ‘HR-4313’) demonstrate a three pronged change in the US policy towards China on the issue of Tibet. First and the most dramatic of these changes is the reaffirmation that “Tibet is an occupied country under the established principles of international law.” Second is the US government’s decision to openly support the Dalai Lama; the ‘Gaden Phodrang’ the national trust which acts as the supreme repository of Dalai Lama’s authority; and Dalai Lama’s representatives as the final authority to decide about Dalai Lama’s next reincarnation . In the amended 2020 form of its bill the US Congress has also added the ‘democratically elected leaders’ of the Tibetan diaspora to this list. This change not only gives the elected ‘Sikyong’ (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) the authority to participate in the installation of next Dalai Lama but also to hold dialogue with the Chinese government about the future of Tibet. In practical terms this gives de-facto recognition to CTA as the ‘Government in Exile’ of Tibet.

And the third is that these bills make it statutorily binding on all future US Presidents and US Administrations to take active action against China’s objectionable acts like imposing a Dalai Lama of its own choice on the people of Tibet. The current bill reiterates the US position both on the reincarnation of Dalai Lama as well as on the settlement of Tibetan issue between Dalai Lama and Beijing through dialogue as expressed in the last HR-4331 which has already become a law of the US following its bipartisan passage in both houses of the US Congress and signing by President Donald Trump. The current bills take it a step further by adding that China should start the dialogue without any pre-conditions. The earlier dialogue process remains log jammed since 2010 because Dalai Lama refuses to accept China’s condition to admit that Tibet has been a part of China since ancient times. Another part of this bill which marks a decisive shift in the US policy on Tibet and towards China is the US Congress’ new resolve and enthusiasm to counter Chinese propaganda regarding Tibet. The bill commands and authorizes the US government and its agencies, which deal with China, to fight the disinformation and propaganda of the Chinese government and the Chinese Communist Party about the history of Tibet, the Tibetan people, and Tibetan institutions including that of the Dalai Lama.

After the clearance of the US Senate’s Foreign Relations Committee the current bill is bound to be passed by the Senate and signed by President Biden to make it a law in near future. This is bound to irritate and provoke President Xi who has always demanded the world to accept that both Tibet and Xinjiang form the ‘Core’ interest and are non-negotiable issues for him and the Chinese Communist Party. More than anything else, this is going to be first time when Xi’s idea of ‘One China Policy’ is being challenged so openly and aggressively.  World it going to watch keenly how he reacts to this diplomatic surgical strike of the US Congress as this issue has the potential of exploding into an international tsunami. And for Tibetan people, this new US law is going to open a new world of hope where the concept of keeping the entire Cholka-Sum has good chances of becoming a reality and the world starts gaining strength to challenge Xi’s idea of ‘One China Policy’ .

(Views expressed are his own)

The author is a senior journalist and Tibetologist who just completed his 50 years with Tibet. He is Chairman, Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement (CHASE)

4 Responses

  1. I am dreaming when another Lal Bhadur shastri will resurrect to complete the bold decision of accepting the exile government of Tibet after US adopt a law that accept entire Tibet an occupied land. But I think dreaming of another Lal Bhadur on Indian soil is a mere dream. A kind of this honest and bold person is exactly same as Ashoka, the great.

  2. I gather Nancy Pelosi was enjoying her noodles on her flight to Taiwan in 2022. I gather she didn’t get the sushi that Bush got on his economic tour of SE Asia?

  3. The US support for Tibet has been one of the reason for hope many Tibetans held for a long time. The Dalai Lama often tells his audience that Pandit Nehru told him: “America will not fight for Tibet and expel the Chinese from Tibet,” that’s why he was forced to settle for autonomy instead of independence! This was some six decades ago when Pandit Nehru was alive. We have come a long way from that era to the present with many vicissitudes. The Nixon administration saw the need to embrace communist China to deter Soviet power and influence. As a result Nixon went to Beijing and met Mao and his right hand man Chou Enlai. As a result the American support for the Tibetan resistant was stopped and the Tibetan guerrillas in Mustang (Northen Nepal) were left in the lurch. Internal strife between Gyalo Dhondup and Bawa Yeshe divided the group which was the last nail in the coffin of Tibetan resistance against communist China. Tibetans became the orphans of the last Cold War between the erstwhile Soviet Union and US. We are entering the new Cold War between communist China and the US and its allies. The battle for supremacy between communist China and America is heating and it might well lead into a war. It’s a battle for ideology and geo-strategic competition. America exports democracy while communist China exports communism in the garb of belt and road mechanism. It is spreading its tentacles around the world to dent American influence and spread Chinese totalitarianism. It attempts to deceive the world by calling its adversaries not to dwell on the antiquated “Cold War mentality”. It’s a cunning cover to paint its opponents of improper conduct in order to portray itself as benign without ulterior motives! However, the world is not easily fooled and very few if any are buying the Chinese image of innocence. Just as the Chinese are determined to bring Taiwan to its heel, America is equally determined to defend Taiwan’s democratic system. If Taiwan is lost, it is as good as America’s demise from Asia and American hopes of democratisation of the Asian continent. Therefore, it’s a high stakes game for both communist China and America. The stakes are even higher for communist China because it has no mandate to rule China since it seized power through violence like Taliban in Afghanistan. If it chooses to go to war to take Taiwan and is not successful, in all probability the CCP will not survive! It will be over thrown since it will be greatly weakened by the ravages of war. A population that has yearned for freedom all these years will rise to overthrow the dictatorial communist regime which has suppressed them without an iota of freedom or rule of law. Besides, the Americans will make sure of regime change in China to eliminate the remnant vintages of totalitarianism.
    Recognising occupation of Cholsum Tibet and acknowledging the Ganden Phodrang as the sole legitimate institution to recognise the future Dalai Lama are wonderful gestures but unless there is concrete action to back up these resolutions, they will remain on paper without any life. Therefore, while the US gives the diplomatic support, it also should consider giving military support for the Tibetans to give reasonable assurance for the fruition of the commitments it has made. As Pandit Nehru had predicted, it is true, America will not put its boots in Tibet to expel the Chinese. This is the job of the Tibetans. Therefore, America should reopen camp Hale to train Tibetan fighters as a contingency plan in preparation for war against communist China. Just as the American CIA’s training of Tibetan guerrillas came into good use in the form of Special Frontier Force, (SFF) the Tibetan forces will come in good use for a future war with communist China. Until now, the Dalai Lama’s call for a peaceful resolution has brought verbal support and lot of adulation for the Dalai Lama for his peaceful effort but nothing concrete. The Chinese communist party is at a cross roads. It is struggling to survive by creating a cult figure of Xi Jinping while using repression to subdue the population. It is losing its grip on power and that is why, it is centralising power in one man in the hope of retaining power but that is creating even more friction among the leadership. People have lost trust in the communist party as we have seen with demonstrators calling for the end of CCP dictatorship. The economic down turn and battered image of communist of China for mishandling covet-19 and the draconian lockdown of China for almost three years have left deep wounds of dissatisfaction and disillusionment of Xi Jinping and the CCP. Even though it is giving a semblance of stability, instability is rampant but is severely suppressed with the police, militia and even the army. The tool of repression will snap one day as we saw in the Soviet Union and now in Myanmar and the regime will teeter on the brink of collapse. Once, the CCP collapses, their will be chaos and different regions will vie for their freedom from a nightmare of totalitarianism because the tools of suppression have dissipated. That is where Tibetan forces are needed to establish a new era and a new system. It will need forces that can deal with the residual resistance and mop up operations. We have to prepare for contingency plans for the probable down fall of the CCP and how to use the chaos that ensues to our advantage to regain our independence. Dictators will fall sooner rather than later. The fall of every regime gives both impetus and opportunity to reassert freedom and independence for those who are subjugated. We have to assert for ourselves because nobody else is going to do it for us. While America is doing its bit to help Tibet for geo-strategic reasons, India has undeniable national security interest to support Tibet. India’s hands are tied because until now, India hoped to be a good friend of communist China as the Chinese had themselves evinced but it was only sided. India seems to be disillusioned with China and now it is taking a different track that is seeking cooperation with America without overtly angering the Chinese but enough to get American support of assurance if it’s attacked again by communist China. It is gradually shedding its non-alignment status and gravitating towards America, Israel, France,Japan and Australia. India wants a tranquil border in the north but as long as the Chinese are illegally occupying Tibet, that is just a pipe dream. Therefore, India would naturally want to restore the buffer status of Tibet for its national security. Tibet’s biggest hope is India which until now has let Tibet down because of its lack of understanding the STRATEGIC NATURE OF TIBET! But now they have learnt the hard way and are fully aware of the importance of Tibet to India. Therefore, India will support Tibet if not openly but covertly.

  4. In the end Tibetan need religious languistic freedom accoring to agreement in 1951. Tibet issue is not about human right. It is about implementing rights under 1951 rights where religious freedoms was guaranteed under Chinese constitution..
    all Tibetans should know their their language. All Tibetan children must be equips in both Tibetan language and any host language.

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