China-Tibet tiff over the Dalai Lama issue hots up again as the US lawmakers have tabled a Bill in the House of Representatives and the Senate to strengthen America’s policy for the peaceful resolution of their differences over Tibet. Known as the Resolve Tibet Act, the bill will make it official US policy that China must resume dialogue with the envoys of the Dalai Lama, as the conflict between Tibet and China is unresolved and Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law.
The timing of the legislation is significant as it was tabled during the US visit of Penpa Tsering, the Sikyong (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration. He is visiting Washington to meet with US lawmakers, including the main sponsors of the legislation and Biden administration officials.
“Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act” was introduced by Congressman Jim McGovern and Michael McCaul in the House and Senators Jeff Merkley and Todd Young in the Senate. It seeks to empower the US government to achieve its long-standing goal of getting Tibetans and Chinese authorities to resolve their differences peacefully through dialogue. As a result of the Chinese government’s decades of extreme human rights abuses, Tibet is now the least-free country on earth alongside South Sudan and Syria, according to the watchdog group Freedom House.
The two sides held ten rounds of dialogue between 2002 and 2010, but the dialogue process has stalled. China has illegally occupied Tibet for over 60 years, forcing the Dalai Lama into exile in 1959. India granted him political asylum, and the Tibetan government-in-exile has been based in Dharamsala in Himachal Pradesh since then. India is home to the Dalai Lama and some 100,000 Tibetan exiles. The Dalai Lama is found in the northern hill town of Dharamsala. The Dalai Lama has rejected Beijing’s longstanding demands to say that Tibet was historically part of China, a refusal cited by Beijing in declining dialogue with his representatives since 2010.
Beijing has in the past accused the Dalai Lama of indulging in “separatist” activities and trying to split Tibet and considers him a divisive figure. However, the Tibetan spiritual leader has insisted that he is not seeking independence but “genuine autonomy for all Tibetans living in the three traditional provinces of Tibet” under the “Middle-Way approach”. McCaul alleged that the Chinese Communist Party continues to oppress the Tibetan people.
The Resolve Tibet Act offers new hope that the decades-long crisis in Tibet can come to a peaceful end. It will make it official US policy that the conflict between Tibet and China is unresolved. Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law, recognising that Tibetans have a right to self-determination and that China’s policies preclude them from exercising that right and fault China for failing to meet expectations of participating in dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives.
China’s embassy in Washington denounced the legislation, which has been introduced with bipartisan support, saying, “Tibet is part of China.” “We urge the US side to take concrete actions to honour its commitment of recognising Tibet as part of China, not supporting ‘Tibetan independence,’ and stop using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China’s internal affairs,” an embassy spokesperson said.
Many observers believe China shut off the Tibet dialogue in anticipation that the cause would shrivel away without the Dalai Lama, the charismatic Nobel Peace Prize-winning monk whose once frenetic international travel schedule has slowed down in recent years.