The Tibetan Policy Act of 2001 will be introduced today by Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) and Craig Thomas (R-WY) in the Senate and Congressmen Tom Lantos (D-CA) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) in the House of Representatives.

Its introduction coincides with the Dalai Lama’s three-week visit to the United States in May. He will visit Minneapolis, St. Paul, Salt Lake City, Portland, San Jose, San Francisco, Madison, Los Angeles, and Washington, DC.

The bill is designed to help Tibetans safeguard their national identity, an issue of growing international concern.

“The sponsors of this bill have crafted the most comprehensive Tibet legislation ever to be considered by Congress,” said Mary Beth Markey, Director of Governmental Relations for the International Campaign for Tibet.

“With this move the U.S. Government is putting the force of law behind its longstanding interest in the welfare of the Tibetan people and a negotiated solution for Tibet.”

The Tibetan Policy Act addresses issues from political prisoners to United Nations consideration of Tibet. It would authorize the continuation of humanitarian assistance for Tibetan refugees, scholarships and other programmatic support for Tibetans.

The bill would also codify the position of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues at the Department of State with specific responsibilities for promoting dialogue between the government of China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives.

“While the Dalai Lama has said that China should neither be bullied nor isolated, he has also made it clear that its conduct in Tibet should not be ignored,” said Markey.

“The Tibetan Policy Act of 2001 follows this approach and provides practical support for His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s efforts to achieve a negotiated solution for Tibet,” said Markey.

The bill would also establish guidelines for U.S. backing of potential development projects on the Tibetan plateau supported by international financial institutions and other international organizations.

Tibet was invaded and occupied by the Chinese military more than fifty years ago. Under Chinese rule Tibetans have suffered widespread discrimination, religious persecution, imprisonment and torture for their beliefs. Their identity as a people and is now threatened by China’s policies of resettlement and assimilation.