A new report from a federal agency supports the enactment of legislation to upgrade US assistance for Tibetans, including on the issue of the Dalai Lama’s succession.
The 2020 Annual Report of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, released today, endorses the bipartisan Tibetan Policy and Support Act, which passed Congress and became law at the end of last year.
The report, which covers July 1, 2019 to July 1, 2020, chronicles “unprecedented steps” taken by the Chinese government and Communist Party “to extend their repressive policies through censorship, intimidation, and the detention of people in China for exercising their fundamental human rights.”
The repression was especially bad in Hong Kong and Xinjiang, which Uyghurs know as East Turkestan, the report says.
In Tibet, which China annexed more than 60 years ago, officials “continued to assert control over the processes of selection and recognition of Tibetan Buddhist reincarnated teachers, including the Dalai Lama,” says the report.
Tibetan Policy and Support Act
In contrast to this blatant violation of international religious freedom, the Tibetan Policy and Support Act makes it official US policy that only the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhist community can decide on his succession.
If any Chinese officials try to interfere in that process, they will face sanctions under the TPSA.
As the report notes, the TPSA also increases US political and humanitarian support for Tibetans in several other ways.
Among other provisions, the new law strengthens the role of the special coordinator for Tibetan issues in the State Department; pressures China to allow a US consulate in Tibet’s capital of Lhasa; and addresses climate change and water security in Tibet, which is warming nearly three times faster than the global average.
Lack of dialogue
The report notes that Chinese officials continued to block dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration, which provides democratic governance for the Tibetan people in exile.
Despite the Dalai Lama’s advocacy of a Middle Way Approach that would leave Tibet as part of China in exchange for giving Tibetans meaningful autonomy, China has refused to negotiate with the Dalai Lama and Tibetan leaders since January 2010.
The report adds that China recently implemented new “ethnic unity” regulations in the Tibet Autonomous Region, which spans about half of Tibet.
These regulations, which violate international human rights standards, give the Chinese government new powers to enforce a Chinese-centric way of life in the TAR and cultivate informants for the Chinese Communist Party.
The report says Congress and the presidential administration should use tools available in Tibet-related legislation—including the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, which Congress passed in 2018—to “try to gain access to Tibetan areas and help sustain Tibetan culture and identity.”
Congress and the administration should also “interact regularly with the leaders of the Central Tibetan Administration and with parliamentarians globally to build international coalitions to protect Tibetan human rights,” the report says.
The report adds that the administration should appoint a high-ranking official, at or above the level of an undersecretary of state, to the position of special coordinator for Tibetan issues in the State Department.
The report also lists several “cases of concern” of political prisoners held by the Chinese government. Among them are two Tibetans:
- Wangdu, a former project officer for an HIV/AIDS program in Lhasa run by the Australian Burnet Institute. Wangdu received a life sentence in 2008 for allegedly sharing information about what’s happening in Tibet with the outside world.
- Anya Sengdra (also written as A-nya Sengdra), who received a seven-year prison sentence in 2019 for his peaceful campaign against corruption by Chinese government officials. Last year, four UN human rights experts and the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention urged the Chinese government to drop the charges against Anya Sengdra.
Wangdu and Anya Sengdra are just two of the more than 500 Tibetan political prisoners currently in detention.
The most high-profile of these is the Panchen Lama, whom Chinese authorities abducted in 1995 when he was just six years old.
The report recommends urging China to invite a representative from an international organization to meet with the Panchen Lama, whom no one has seen in public since his forced disappearance.
Bhuchung K. Tsering, interim president of the International Campaign for Tibet:
“This year’s CECC report comes at a time when a new administration is about to take office in Washington, DC, and after the Tibetan Policy and Support Act has been passed into law. This report’s Tibet section shows why the new Biden Administration needs to truly implement the TPSA as the situation in Tibet is continuing to threaten US interests and the wider region. ICT looks forward to working with the administration and with leaders in Congress, and the CECC, to advance the momentum in US support for Tibet and to pressure China to address Tibetans’ legitimate demands for basic rights and freedoms.”