WASHINGTON — U.S. Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Marco Rubio (R-Fl.), Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.) today introduced the Tibet Policy and Support Act of 2019. The legislation seeks to update and strengthen the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 to address emerging human rights, religious freedom, and other challenges faced by the Tibetan people. Representative Jim McGovern (D-MA) introduced companion legislation in the House of Representatives (H.R. 4331).
“I am proud to partner with Senator Rubio, Congressman McGovern, and House and Senate colleagues on both sides of the aisle to introduce the Tibet Policy and Support Act,” Cardin said. “Our legislation expresses strong bipartisan congressional support for the human rights, religious freedom and self-sufficiency of the Tibetan people. The United States will not stand idly by as the Chinese government attempts to interfere with the Tibetan community’s religious freedom and autonomy, including the deeply spiritual process for succession or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama.”
“This much-needed bill updates U.S. policy toward Tibet amid new challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party against Tibetans,” Rubio said. “We must continue to shine a bright light on the Chinese government’s repression of the Tibetan people and explore new tools to protect their religion, language, and culture, both inside and outside China.”
“It is a disgrace what China is doing to the people of Tibet as they’re being repressed more and more each year,” Graham said. “We’ll continue to stand against China and with the people of Tibet.”
“In the 17 years since the original Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 was signed into law, the human rights situation in Tibet has only worsened,” Feinstein said. “The Chinese government’s policies are severely degrading Tibetan religion, culture, language, livelihoods and environment. The United States must work multilaterally to improve conditions for all Tibetans. This bill will do that by updating the original Tibetan Policy Act to meet today’s challenges and I’m proud to support it.”
“The Chinese Communist Party uses every tool at its disposal to manipulate the people of Tibet, just as it’s doing in Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and elsewhere,” Cotton said. “Beijing has kidnapped Buddhist spiritual leaders in the past, and now wants to install a successor to the Dalai Lama who will legitimize China’s brutal rule in Tibet. Our bill would support the freedom of the Tibetan people by sanctioning Chinese officials who interfere in Tibet’s religious and cultural traditions.”
“For too long, the rights of Tibetans have been diminished by the government in Beijing,” Markey said. “With the continued trend toward authoritarianism around the world, it is imperative that the United States send a clear message that it stands for freedom for oppressed populations. The Tibet Policy and Support Act does exactly that, which is why I am proud to co-sponsor this crucial piece of legislation.”
The Tibet Policy and Support Act of 2019 will:
- Establish as U.S. policy that the succession or reincarnation of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, including a future 15th Dalai Lama, is an exclusively religious matter that should be made solely by the Tibetan Buddhist community.
- Specify that Chinese officials who interfere in the process of recognizing a successor or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama will be subject to targeted financial, economic, and visa-related sanctions including those in the Global Magnitsky Act.
- Strengthen the role of the State Department Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues including a mandate to work multilaterally with other governments to promote a genuine dialogue between Tibetan leaders and the Chinese government.
- Direct the State and Commerce Departments to ensure that operations of U.S. companies working in Tibet are transparent, foster the self-sufficiency of Tibetans, and respect the culture and environment of the Tibetan Plateau.
- Mandate that there should be no new Chinese consulates in the United States until the establishment of a U.S. consulate in Lhasa.
- Direct the State Department to begin collaborative efforts to protect the environment and water resources on the Tibetan Plateau.
- Support democratic governance in the Tibetan exile community.
- Authorize ongoing U.S. appropriations that support Tibetans in Tibet and in South Asia.