The bill that President Joe Biden signed into law today to fund the US government also expands US support for the Tibetan people, including by challenging China’s occupation of Tibet and strengthening US calls for dialogue on Tibet’s future.

“By passing this bill, the US is making it clear that Tibet plays a critical role in its strategic competition with China,” said Franz Matzner, government relations director of the International Campaign for Tibet, an advocacy group that promotes human rights and democratic freedoms for the Tibetan people.

“Like Ukraine—which this bill also increases US support for—Tibet was invaded by a more powerful, authoritarian neighbor, and today, Tibet is the least-free country on Earth in a tie with South Sudan and Syria, according to the latest rankings from Freedom House. This legislation provides the Tibetan people with resources they need to continue their peaceful struggle and sends a strong message to the Chinese government that it cannot maintain the status quo in Tibet and must resolve the Tibetan issue through dialogue.”

Matzner added that the bill continues the US’ long tradition of bipartisan support for Tibet and the Dalai Lama.

Support for Tibet in the legislation

The funding bill:

  • Increases funding for Tibetans around the world: The legislation provides $10 million for nongovernmental organizations that have experience working with Tibetan communities to preserve Tibetan cultural traditions and promote sustainable development, education and environmental conservation in Tibet. The legislation also makes $8 million available for programs to promote and preserve Tibetan culture and language in Tibetan refugee and diaspora communities; development; and the resilience of Tibetan communities and the Central Tibetan Administration in India and Nepal; as well as to assist in the education and development of the next generation of Tibetan leaders from such communities. Another $3 million will be available for programs to strengthen the capacity of the Central Tibetan Administration, which provides democratic governance for Tibetans in exile.
  • Tibetan Institutes Promoting Democracy and Religious Freedom: The bill also provides a grant program for Tibetan institutes established by Tibetan nationals and located in Asia. The mission of these institutes will be to support democracy and religious freedom in Tibet and the people’s republic of China.
  • Expands the role of the special coordinator for Tibetan issues: The special coordinator serves as the administration’s point person on efforts to resolve the Tibetan issue. In December 2021, Secretary of State Antony Blinken appointed Under Secretary Uzra Zeya to the role.The new legislation expands the role by requiring the special coordinator to ensure the funding the bill provides helps Tibetans preserve their culture, religion and language. The special coordinator will also work with the assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor and consult with Congress to coordinate funding from the Countering PRC Influence Fund for Tibetan institutes in Asia that support democracy and religious freedom in Tibet and China.

Need to negotiate

The funding bill also confronts the Chinese government over its illegal occupation of Tibet, as well as its refusal to negotiate with Tibetan representatives.

Although China has ruled over Tibet for more than six decades, it has refused to negotiate with Tibetan leaders since 2010.

Zeya, the special coordinator for Tibetan issues, said earlier this month at the State Department’s reception for Losar, the Tibetan New Year, that she would “actively promote meaningful and direct dialogue without preconditions between the government of the People’s Republic of China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives, leading to a negotiated agreement on Tibet.

Zeya added: “I call on likeminded countries to join this effort and look forward to the discussions to come.”