Dalai Lama Selection: US Lawmakers For Sanctions Against China

Dharamsala: Reaffirming Washington’s continued support to the Tibetan cause, US lawmakers want sanctions against China for interfering with the selection of a new Dalai Lama.

Also, they favoured establishing a diplomatic office in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, to monitor the brutal tactics of the Chinese government towards religion, culture and language.

The current Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959, is respected by millions as a living god.

In a bipartisan show of support for Tibet, the US lawmakers on September 13 introduced a bill in Congress that threatens sanctions against China for interfering with the selection of a new Dalai Lama.

The revised version of the Tibet Policy Act 2002 — a landmark legislation that enshrined support for Tibet in US law — introduced in the US House of Representatives last week, proposes sanctions on Chinese officials who interfere and impede the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, among others.

The new amendments to the bill if passed will signal a tougher stance on China with regard to Tibet.

The Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019 was introduced in the House by James McGovern, Chairman of the US Congressional-Executive Commission on China, and will be introduced in the Senate by Commission co-chair Senator Marco Rubio.

The bill will then be submitted for review by the Committee on Foreign Affairs and Committee on the Judiciary, and put forward for debate and passage into law at a later date.

Washington-based advocacy group International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said under the new bill, any Chinese official deemed complicit in identifying or installing a future Dalai Lama will face sanctions that could include having their assets frozen and their entry to the US denied.

In a statement, ICT president Matteo Mecacci welcomed the proposed legislation. The statement said Beijing’s claim of authority over the selection process is part of a long-term strategy “to legitimize its rule in Tibet and gain soft power over Buddhist practitioners worldwide”.

English daily South China Morning Post said on Thursday that US lawmakers also unveiled new legislation that would prohibit Beijing from opening any new consulates on American soil until the US is permitted to establish its own diplomatic office in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa.

The bill, introduced in the House of Representatives by James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat, also lays out a roadmap for punitive action against Chinese officials who interfere in the Dalai Lama’s succession.

The legislation was introduced on Friday (September 13) but only made public this week; a companion piece of legislation in the Senate, led by Marco Rubio, a Florida Republican, is expected in the coming days, says the paper.

The law would “strengthen US support for the Tibetan people in their struggle for human rights, religious freedom and genuine autonomy”, said the paper quoting McGovern.

However, aides in the Dalai Lama’s private office here clarified that there is no question of a search for his successor as the Dalai Lama, 84, announced in 2011 that he would decide at 90 whether or not he should have a successor.

The issue of reincarnation is his personal right, an aide in the Dalai Lama’s office told IANS.

At the same time, the globe-trotting monk warned that any candidate chosen for political ends by anyone, including China, should not be recognised or accepted.

The aide said there is no certainty whether the institution of the Dalai Lama should continue or not after the 14th and current Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso.

“My reincarnation is to be decided by myself, nobody has the right to decide about that,” he often said in his remarks.

“One day you will hear that the Dalai Lama has passed away, but I will come back, even if the institution of Dalai Lama is no longer recognised. I will be back,” a post on his website quoting the Dalai Lama said.

But who is next after the Dalai Lama?

At the present moment, the Dalai Lama’s institution is useful to the Tibetan culture and the Tibetan people.

“Thus, if I were to die today, I think the Tibetan people would choose to have another Dalai Lama. In the future, if the Dalai Lama’s institution is no longer relevant or useful and our present situation changes, then the Dalai Lama’s institution will cease to exist,” the Buddhist monk said in a post on his website.

“Personally, I feel the institution of the Dalai Lama has served its purpose. More recently, since 2001 we now have a democratically elected head of our administration, the Kalon Tripa.

“The Kalon Tripa runs the daily affairs of our administration and is in charge of our political establishment. Half jokingly and half seriously, I state that I am now in semi-retirement.”

The Dalai Lama lives in exile along with some 140,000 Tibetans, over 100,000 of them in different parts of India. Over six million Tibetans live in Tibet.

By Vishal Gulati