The International Campaign for Tibet expresses our solidarity with the Tibetan people on the eve of the 61st anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising of March 10, 1959.

On that day more than six decades ago, Tibetans rose up to protest China’s invasion of their homeland, a historically independent country in the Himalayan region of Asia.

Their immediate fear was that Chinese troops reportedly planned to abduct the Dalai Lama. Within a few days, the Dalai Lama was forced to flee into exile. Since then, China has ruled Tibet with an iron fist and has never allowed the Dalai Lama to return home.

Although human rights are limited across China, Tibetans are singled out for greater abuse simply for preserving their identity and exercising their most basic freedoms. And while China has long been known for its rights violations, conditions in Tibet are getting dramatically worse.

Freedom House has repeatedly, including in 2020, listed Tibet as the second-least-free region in the world, behind only Syria and worse than even North Korea.

But outside of Tibet, the Dalai Lama had the farsighted vision to establish institutions in exile that have empowered the Tibetan people to preserve and disseminate to the world their religion, traditions and way of life while at the same time pursuing modern education.

The Dalai Lama’s commitment to keeping the Tibetan struggle nonviolent in the face of tremendous challenges continues to be an inspiration to ICT and nonviolent movements throughout the world.

Protecting Dalai Lama institution

As we observe this March 10 anniversary, ICT re-dedicates itself to promoting human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet and to fulfilling the vision of the Dalai Lama.

Currently, we are seeing attempts by China to control the Tibetan reincarnation system.

After abducting the reincarnated Panchen Lama and his family when he was just six years old—and installing their own in his place—the Chinese Communist Party now claims the right to select the next Dalai Lama.

Even as the international community works to support a political solution to the issue of Tibet, it needs to reject China’s absurd claim of being the decider of this distinctly Tibetan Buddhist tradition.

In the United States, the House of Representatives in January overwhelmingly passed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act, a major bill that, among other things, will make it official US policy that only the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan Buddhist community can decide on his reincarnation—and will sanction any Chinese officials who attempt to name their own Dalai Lama in the future.

The bill now needs to pass the Senate and be signed into law by the president.

Sixty-one years after Tibetans rose up to protect the Dalai Lama from Chinese troops on Tibetan uprising day, all of us must now take action to protect the institution from Chinese control.