Bill describing Beijing’s centuries-old control over Tibet as ‘disinformation’ heads to President Joe Biden’s desk.

A bipartisan bill that seeks to counter Beijing’s narrative about China’s control over Tibet and promote dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama is on its way to US President Joe Biden’s desk.

The House of Representatives voted 391-26 on Wednesday to approve the Promoting a Resolution of the Tibet-China Dispute Act, which was approved by the Senate last month.

The bill, introduced in the Senate by Oregon Democrat Jeff Merkley, would direct funds to combat what it calls Beijing’s “disinformation” about Tibet’s history, people and institutions.

The bill refutes the Chinese government’s claim that Tibet has been part of China since ancient times and would establish U.S. policy that the dispute over Tibet’s status is unresolved.

A shepherd rides a motorbike on the shores of Lake Gomang in Tibet. Photo: Shutterstock

It would also make it U.S. policy that “Tibet” refers not only to the Tibet Autonomous Region as defined by the Chinese government, but also to the Tibetan areas of Gansu, Qinghai, Sichuan, and Yunnan provinces.

“The passage of this bill demonstrates America’s determination that the status quo of [Partido Comunista Chinês] in Tibet is not acceptable and I can think of no greater message or gift for the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people,” Republican Rep. Michael McCaul of Texas said on the House floor Tuesday.

By toughening the language around Washington’s stance on Tibet, the bill’s supporters hope to pressure Beijing to resume negotiations with the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader. The two parties have not maintained a formal dialogue since 2010.

The House had already approved a version of the Senate bill in February. The sponsor of that House bill, Democrat Jim McGovern of Massachusetts, said previous U.S. calls for negotiations between Beijing and the Dalai Lama “without preconditions” had failed.

Beijing maintains that Tibet has remained under Chinese central rule for more than 700 years, despite prolonged periods in which Tibetan activists argue the region was effectively self-governed.

The Dalai Lama has said he does not seek political independence for Tibet, but does not recognize Beijing’s historic claim to Tibet.

In April, China’s foreign ministry reaffirmed that any contact or talks with the spiritual leader would concern his “personal future” or, at most, that of his close associates, and not the issue of Tibetan autonomy.

Beijing opposes contact by officials from any country with the Dalai Lama. Photo: AP

The U.S. State Department considers the autonomous region and other Tibetan areas to be part of China, but supporters of the bill note that the U.S. government has never taken the position that the Chinese Communist Party’s occupation of the region in the 1950s was in accordance with international law.

The bill’s authors argue that the Chinese government is “systematically suppressing” the ability of Tibetans to preserve their religion, culture, language, history, way of life, and environment, and assert that the Tibetan people have the right to “self-determination ”.

Since taking office in 2021, Biden has yet to meet the Dalai Lama. As a 2020 candidate, Biden criticized Donald Trump for being the only US president in three decades who has not met or spoken with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

However, the US president has expressed sympathy for the Tibetan cause, raising concerns with President Xi Jinping about China’s actions in Tibet and appointing a senior State Department official to serve as special coordinator for Tibetan issues.

The Dalai Lama has announced plans to visit the US this month for knee treatment, but there are no details about any meetings between him and US officials. Beijing opposes contact by officials from any country with the Dalai Lama.

Via South China Morning Post.


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