Passage of Resolve Tibet Act in Congress important but its eventual impact on China doubtful

By Mayank Chhaya-

Mayank Chhaya

The overwhelming passage of a bill in the US House that pressures China to resume direct negotiations with the Dalai Lama’s envoys or the democratically elected leaders of the Tibetan people is a significant symbolic win that may not make any tangible impact on Beijing.

Known as the Resolve Tibet Act, the bill leans on the Chinese government to resume negotiations which have been stalled since 2010.

Even when the negotiations stalled 14 years ago, Beijing had shown no particular inclination to resolve the Tibetan dispute. In the interregnum, the rise of and dramatic consolidation of power by President Xi Jinping since March 14, 2013, has meant that China’s position on Tibet has become even more entrenched.

However, to the extent that the Resolve Tibet Act keeps the Tibetan issue alive in the consciousness of the international community as well reiterates Washington’s firm commitment to its amicable resolution, it is a remarkable development.

The bipartisan Promoting a Resolution to the Tibet-China Dispute Act passed on February 15.

It was introduced by Representatives Jim McGovern, a Democrat from Massachusetts and Michael McCaul, Republican from Texas. Among other things the bill, which is now an act, dismisses as inaccurate the Chinese claim that Tibet has been part of China since ancient times and empowers the State Department to actively counter China’s disinformation about Tibetan history, people and institutions.

The next step would be for the US Senate to pass its version of the legislation introduced by Senators Jeff Merkley, Democrat from Oregon and Todd Young, Republican from Indiana.

The passage of this particular bill should be seen in the broader context of the way the US government has lately stepped up its support for Tibet as manifest in the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018 and the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020.

The new act coincides with the upcoming 65th anniversary in March of the Dalai Lama’s forced exile into India in 1959. Tibetans in exile point out quoting the watchdog group Freedom House that after 65 years of Chinese occupation, Tibet now ranks as the least-free country alongside South Sudan and Syria.

McGovern, a lead sponsor of the bill, said: “A vote for this bill is a vote to recognize the rights of the Tibetan people. And it is a vote to insist on resolving the dispute between Tibet and the People’s Republic of China peacefully, in accordance with international law, through dialogue, without preconditions. There is still an opportunity to do this. But time is running out.”

Representative Young Kim, Republican from California said, “This bill ensures that Tibetans have a say in their own future. It stresses the need for a direct dialogue between the CCP and the democratically elected leaders of Tibet, and that any resolution must be peaceful and include the voice of the Tibetan people. Tibetans are democracy-loving people who wish to freely practice their religion and have their distinct identity acknowledged and respected. I’m proud to play a small part in supporting this dream for the Tibetan people.”

“Since 2010 Beijing has also refused to meet its international obligations to engage the Dalai Lama and his representatives to resolve the Tibet issue through dialogue. At the same time Beijing has unleashed a disinformation campaign to mislead the world about Tibet and its history. For this reason, we must pass H.R.533, which calls the PRC out for its repression and its unwillingness to engage the Tibetan people,” said Representative Kathy Manning, Democrat from North Carolina.

Representative Chris Smith, Republican from New Jersey said, “Amid these threats to Tibetans in Tibet, the Chinese Communist Party also seeks to extend its repressive reach abroad, targeting for surveillance and harassment Tibetan diaspora communities in the United States, in India and in Nepal. The Chinese Communist Party has long engaged in crimes against humanity in Tibet and against Tibetans, plain and simple.”

Namgyal Choedup, Representative of the Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Administration to North America was quoted as saying, “Tibetan people will always cherish the bipartisan support for Tibet in the US Congress. I would like to thank Chairman McCaul and Congressman Jim McGovern for taking the lead on this vital legislation. Tibetan people, despite seven decades of brutal and paralyzing oppression by the CCP, have never abandoned hope. The H.R.533 passage by the US House will boost the determination of the Tibetan people and their resilience. It also sends a clear message to the current regime under Xi Jinping that if they truly desire social harmony and stability, the only way is to come to the negotiating table in good faith to resolve the Tibet-China dispute.”

International Campaign for Tibet President Tencho Gyatso said, “Today’s vote shows that US support for Tibet is only growing stronger even after 65 years of China’s control and occupation. China has been playing a waiting game, hoping that the international community would eventually abandon Tibet. Clearly that is not the case. The Chinese government should take the hint and restart the dialogue process with Tibetan leaders. We thank Congressman McGovern and Chairman McCaul and all the representatives who helped pass the Resolve Tibet Act today, and we look forward to working with Sens. Merkley and Young, as well as our supporters across the country, to make this bill the law of the land.”

Many of the features of the act have the potential to be viewed as interference by Beijing. The act’s statement that it is US policy that the dispute between Tibet and China must be resolved by international law, including the UN Charter, by peaceful means through dialogue without preconditions.

It also calls for substantive dialogue without preconditions between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama or his representatives or the democratically elected leaders of the Tibetan community. To Beijing that may sound like a diktat.

At a deeper, more substantive level the counsel of the act that China addresses the aspirations of the Tibetan people regarding their distinct historical, cultural, religious and linguistic identity is also expected not to go down well with Beijing.

Related posts