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The US House passes bill urging China to address Tibet dispute, says Radio Free Asia

The U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday passed a bill that urges China to resolve issues related to Tibet through dialogue with the Dalai Lama or Tibetan leaders and directs the State Department to actively counter disinformation about the history of the formerly independent country.

The Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Dispute Act, also known as the Resolve Tibet Act, passed by a vote of 392-28, with 11 abstentions. 

To become law, it still needs to pass the Senate.

It calls for a resumption in negotiations between Chinese officials and the Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, or his representatives. Since 2010, no formal dialogue has happened and Chinese officials continue to make unreasonable demands of the Dalai Lama as a condition for further dialogue. 

The bipartisan bill was introduced by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul, a Texas Republican, and Rep. Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts, along with Senators Todd Young, an Indiana Republican, and Jeff Merkley, an Oregon Democrat. 

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet into exile in India in the midst of a failed 1959 uprising against rule by China, which invaded the then independent Himalayan country in 1950.

Since then, Beijing has sought to legitimize Chinese rule through the suppression of dissent and policies undermining Tibetan culture and language. 

‘Clear message’

The legislation articulates that Tibet includes the Tibetan-populated regions of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan and Yunnan provinces, in addition to the Tibet Autonomous Region, thereby challenging China’s claim that Tibet is restricted to that latter region alone.

The bill’s passage “sends a clear message to China that Tibet has always been an independent nation and negates the Chinese government’s claim that Tibet has historically been a part of China,” said Namgyal Choedup, the representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration to North America.

The bill states that “claims made by officials of the People’s Republic of China and the Chinese Communist Party that Tibet has been a part of China since ancient times are historically inaccurate.” 

Rep. Jim McGovern speaks during a hearing on the Fiscal Responsibility Act of 2023 in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C., on May 30, 2023. (Mandel Ngan/AFP)

On Tuesday, McGovern, one of the lead sponsors of the bill, urged Congress to support the legislation, saying, “A vote for this bill is a vote to recognize the rights of the Tibetan people. And it is a vote to insist on resolving the dispute between Tibet and the People’s Republic of China peacefully, in accordance with international law, through dialogue, without preconditions. There is still an opportunity to do this. But time is running out.”

Beijing believes that the Dalai Lama, who lives in Dharamsala, India, wants to split off the Tibet Autonomous Region and other Tibetan-populated areas in China’s Sichuan and Qinghai provinces from the rest of the country. 

Chinese authorities have urged Tibetan monks to denounce the Dalai Lama, and even possessing a photo of him is a crime.

However, the Dalai Lama does not advocate for independence but rather a “Middle Way” that accepts Tibet’s status as a part of China and urges greater cultural and religious freedoms, including strengthened language rights that are guaranteed for ethnic minorities under China’s constitution.

“Today’s vote shows that U.S. support for Tibet is only growing stronger even after 65 years of China’s control and occupation,” International Campaign for Tibet President Tencho Gyatso told RFA.

“China has been playing a waiting game, hoping that the international community would eventually abandon Tibet. Clearly that is not the case,” he said. “The Chinese government should take the hint and restart the dialogue process with Tibetan leaders.”

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