New bill in US House would sanction Chinese officials interfering in Dalai Lama's succession

Bipartisan legislation to modify Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 also calls for US consulate in Lhasa

File photo: Dalai Lama

File photo: Dalai Lama (AP photo)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A new bill was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives on Sept. 13 that calls for increased support of the Tibetan people and proposes sanctions on Chinese officials who attempt to interfere in the succession and appointment of the next Dalai Lama.

Authored by Rep. James McGovern of Massachusetts, the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019 (H.R. 4331) was introduced to modify the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002. A significant part of the legislation declares that the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is a religious decision to be determined by the Tibetan people and that Chinese officials should be punished for interfering in the process.

The bipartisan bill has been co-sponsored by seven other representatives and will be reviewed by the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Committee on the Judiciary before it reaches a vote on the House floor. Pro-Tibet groups have lobbied for an update to the existing Tibetan Policy Act in light of major changes in recent years, reports the Central Tibetan Administration.

First, the Dalai Lama is no longer the political leader of the Tibetan government in exile, as he gave up the position to elected officials in 2011. Second, there is no longer any direct dialogue between the government in exile and Chinese officials, and third, the communist government in China has in recent years expressed its intent to handpick the Dalai Lama’s successor, which is wholly unacceptable to the Tibetan people.

Congressman McGovern first proposed the new legislation back in July as a means of telling China not to meddle in the spiritual leader’s succession. In the preceding weeks, the Dalai Lama, who is currently 84 years old, announced that he would determine whether or not to reincarnate at the age of 90.

Another important part of the new bill is the article that mandates that the Secretary of State forbid any new Chinese consulates from being established in the U.S. until a U.S. consulate is established in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa. The bill states that in the humanitarian interest of the Tibetan people, China should be willing to allow increased observation of the Tibet Autonomous Region.