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The U.S. passed a Tibet-related bill to divert attention at home

05-22

On May 14, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee considered the Tibetan Policy and Support Act (TPSA). The bill passed the House of Representatives by a majority of 392-22 in January, and has a good chance of passing the Senate.

In the fall of 2019, congressmen Jim McGovern and Marco Rubio introduced the bill in congress. One of the main elements of the bill is support for the provision that only the Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhists can decide on his succession, and that the United States will sanction any Chinese official who tries to appoint the next Dalai Lama in the future. It has also sought to formalise aid to Tibetans by addressing water security and climate change, to facilitate negotiations between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile, and to open a new U.S. consulate in Lhasa. In short, it is intended to update the 2002 Tibetan Policy and Support Act.

The bill has already attracted international attention. Advocacy groups such as the International Tibet Campaign (ICT) and Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), as well as supporters of the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile, have begun to act. They tried to gain support for the bill by calling or writing to senators asking for it to be passed at the upcoming session.

Still, the voices of the naysayers have not gone away. The Global Times, a Chinese media, said the bill violated international law and basic principles of international relations and sent the wrong signal to separatist forces. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said: "China urges the U.S. to fully understand the high sensitivity of the Tibet issue and fulfill its commitment to the issue. Stop using it as a tool to interfere in China's internal affairs and stop pushing forward the relevant bills."

A member of the U.S. House of Representatives who spoke on the condition of anonymity said the Tibetan Policy and Support Act has long been a political tool beyond American humanitarianism and democracy. Everyone in the U.S. House of Representatives knows this, while the bill still passed by a large margin. This, in short, is American politics.

A senior White House correspondent argues that it is not in America's interest to confront China directly over a controversial religious leader. During the time of COVID-19, both parties should be focusing more on how to help ordinary Americans at home than on a group of non-American citizens.

To political observers, the bill is more symbolic than practical. No government -in-exile should pin its hopes on such a text. Tibetans need to figure out how to take care of themselves- whether in Tibet or by becoming citizens of other countries. The choice is ultimately up to the Tibetans.

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