Mere months after China’s military forced the Dalai Lama into exile from Tibet, the US Congress in July 1959 declared Tibet a “captive nation” in a joint resolution establishing Captive Nations Week.

This year, Democrats and Republicans in both the House and Senate introduced the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet China Conflict Act, a bill that will pressure China to end its decades-long, illegal occupation of Tibet through peaceful dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s envoys.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has proposed to peacefully resolve the issue of Tibet and to bring about stability and co-existence between the Tibetan and Chinese peoples based on equality and mutual cooperation. This policy of the Middle Way has been adopted democratically by the Central Tibetan Administration and the Tibetan people through a series of discussions held over a long time. The Middle Way would respect the fundamental rights of the Tibetan people, bring peace and security to China, and provide hope and inspiration to areas of conflict around the globe.

As the United States once again observes Captive Nations Week from July 16-22, the International Campaign for Tibet calls on Congress to pass the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act so that Tibet’s unresolved status as a captive nation can someday end.

What the bill does

Reps. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., and Michael McCaul, R-Texas, and Sens. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., and Todd Young, R-Ind., reintroduced the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act on Feb. 8, 2023.

Known as the Resolve Tibet Act, the bill will:

  • Make it official US policy that the conflict between Tibet and China is unresolved and that Tibet’s legal status remains to be determined under international law
  • Recognize that Tibetans have a right to self-determination—and that China’s policies preclude them from exercising that right
  • Fault China for failing to meet expectations of participating in dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives
  • Reject as “historically false” China’s claim that Tibet has been part of China since ancient times
  • Empower the Office of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues to counter Communist Party propaganda about the history of Tibet, the Tibetan people and Tibetan institutions, including His Holiness the Dalai Lama
  • Make clear that Tibet includes not only the so-called “Tibet Autonomous Region” of China but also Tibetan areas of Gansu, Sichuan, Qinghai and Yunnan provinces

Captive nation

The Captive Nations Week declaration from 1959 is one of many US government documents from before and after China’s invasion of Tibet that list Tibet as separate from China.

However, the Chinese government has seized on occasional inconsistencies in US statements to claim that the United States recognizes Tibet as part of China. China has even used these false claims to avoid dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama.

From 2002-10, China held 10 rounds of dialogue with His Holiness’ envoys. During the eighth round of dialogue held in 2008 in Beijing, the envoys of the Dalai Lama presented a memorandum on genuine autonomy to their Chinese counterparts. But since then, China has refused to get back to the negotiating table, insisting the Dalai Lama publicly state that Tibet has always been part of China. But His Holiness cannot say that because it isn’t true.

The Resolve Tibet Act will reject China’s lies about Tibet’s history and aim to pressure the Chinese government to resume dialogue with the Dalai Lama’s envoys by making it clear that Tibet’s international legal status has not yet been determined.

Six and a half decades after China began its illegal occupation of Tibet and Congress recognized Tibet as a captive nation, Congress should help bring an end to Tibet’s captivity by passing the Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Conflict Act.

Tell Congress to pass the bill.

Learn more about the Resolve Tibet Act.