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senate Bill S. 2539

Should the U.S. Update Laws Punishing China for its Repression of Tibet?

Argument in favor

U.S. policy toward Tibet needs to be updated in light of new challenges posed by Chinese Communist Party actions against Tibetans. Updating and strengthening U.S. policies to support the Tibetan people is necessary to ensure that the U.S. stands up for human rights, religious freedoms, and cultural preservation in Tibet. As a protector of human rights around the world and defender of religious freedom, it’s only right that the U.S. support these principles in Tibet.

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11/09/2019
We should start fighting back against China’s disgusting oppression against its people, their lies, and what they have done to Tibet. Leave them alone, China. Punish China until they learn their lesson.
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DeepSouthDem's Opinion
···
11/09/2019
This is just one of many instances of CCP sponsored ethnic cleansing/repression that should be cause for punishment not just by the United States, but the international community as well. This includes Hong Kong, and the ethnic cleansing of Uyghur Muslims as well.
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Bruce's Opinion
···
11/09/2019
Is this even a real possibility in the Trump Regime? Trump probably knows nothing about Tibet. Absolutely nothing! And he cares even less!
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Argument opposed

Given the fragile state of trade talks between the U.S. and China, now isn’t the time for the U.S. to aggravate China — which strongly believe that Tibet is a rightful part of its territoritory — by passing legislation that supports Tibetan interests over Chinese interests. Regardless of what the U.S. thinks about China’s Tibet policy, China’s position in the region is a domestic, not international issue. Therefore, it would be inappropriate for the U.S. to weigh in on this domestic Chinese policy issue.

jimK's Opinion
···
11/09/2019
I think a Congressional resolution is appropriate; of our Country’s belief in human rights and that it is our belief that that Tibetan’s rights as human beings are being violated by China’s policies. I don’t think we have the right nor the authority to unilaterally impose our beliefs on another country, unless we do so as part of a broader world community of allied partners. This appears to be another attempt to leverage an unrelated issue in order to force trade policy changes because we think we can. Our ability to enforce our will on other countries has been seriously diminished under our republican-enabled trump ‘rule’. The downfall of authoritarian regimes, of which we have increasingly become, is that their self-righteous beliefs, which by ‘proclamation’ are ‘right and righteous’, can simply be imposed on others. If needed, these beliefs should not be ‘policied’ by us alone because ‘we said so’ without allied interests and international cooperation and support. In particular, this all seems quite hypocritical given our own abdominal recent ‘human-rights’ abuses of Latino immigrants. ... ... ... It is always much better to ‘lead’ by our example than it is to ‘lead’ by imposing our self-righteous mandates.
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Rebekah 's Opinion
···
11/09/2019
No. Instead, let’s take responsibility for our own genocides, broken treaties, and massive incarceration of minorities here at home.
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David's Opinion
···
11/09/2019
What about the human rights we are trampling on at our Southern Border?
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bill Progress


  • Not enacted
    The President has not signed this bill
  • The house has not voted
  • The senate has not voted
      senate Committees
      Committee on Foreign Relations
    IntroducedSeptember 24th, 2019

What is Senate Bill S. 2539?

This bill — the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019 — would update and strengthen the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 to address emerging issues around human rights, religious freedom, and other challenges facing the Tibetan people. It would build on last year’s Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act and require the State Dept. of deny entry to the U.S. for Chinese officials responsible for keeping American diplomats, journalists, and ordinary citizens out of Tibet. It would also establish as U.S. policy a number of positions that support Tibetan cultural and religious practices are described in greater detail below.

Specifically, this bill would: 

  • 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.
  • Subject Chinese officials who interfere in the process of recognizing a successor or reincarnation of the Dalai Lama 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 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. 
  • Recognize the Tibetan plateau’s key role in determining global climate change.
  • Support democratic governance in the Tibetan exile community.
  • Authorize ongoing U.S. appropriations that support Tibetans in Tibet and in South Asia.

Impact

Tibetans in exile; State Dept;. U.S. policy with regard to Tibet; U.S.-China policy; China; Tibet; Dalai Lama; and religious and cultural freedom in Tibet.

Cost of Senate Bill S. 2539

A CBO cost estimate is unavailable.

More Information

In-DepthSponsoring Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced this bill 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:

“This much-needed bill updates U.S. policy toward Tibet amid new challenges posed by the Chinese Communist Party against Tibetans. 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.”

Original cosponsor Sen. Ben Cardin (D-MD) adds:

“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. 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.”

House sponsor Rep. James McGovern (D-MA) says

“I am proud to support this new legislation to strengthen U.S. support for the Tibetan people in their struggle for human rights, religious freedom and genuine autonomy. Chinese officials should be aware that efforts to interfere in the Tibetan Buddhist practice of choosing its religious leaders, including a possible 15th Dalai Lama, will be strongly opposed by the U.S. and subject to targeted sanctions including those in the Global Magnitsky Act.”

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) supports this bill. Its president, Matteo Mecacci, says: 

“For decades, the US has supported the Dalai Lama’s efforts to protect human rights and democratic freedoms for the people of Tibet, and with this new bill, Congress is saying to Beijing that it will continue to stand up for Tibetans once His Holiness eventually passes away. Not only does the Tibetan Policy and Support Act recognize that the Dalai Lama’s succession is a matter of universal religious freedom, it also establishes that Tibet is an important part of America’s national interests in the region. ICT would like to thank Rep. Jim McGovern, Sen. Marco Rubio and every cosponsor of this legislation. Now we call on ICT members, as well as all Tibet supporters and Tibetan Americans around the country, to ask their senators and representatives to sign onto this bill and pass it into law as soon as possible.”

The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) supports this bill. USCIRF Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee says: 

“USCIRF thanks Senator Rubio and Representative McGovern, as well as the bipartisan group of members of Congress who have already cosponsored the bill, for their leadership in protecting religious freedom in Tibet. I also welcome the recent passage of a resolution by Tibetan representatives at the Third Special General Meeting in India on His Holiness the Dalai Lama's next reincarnation. We have watched with alarm as the Chinese government increases its stranglehold not only over Tibetan Buddhists, but also over Uighur Muslims, Christians, Falun Gong practitioners and other religious communities throughout the country.”

Dr. Lobsang Sangay, president of the Tibetan government in exile, supports this bill. In a September 25, 2019 press conference, he thanked the U.S. lawmakers who introduced this bill on behalf of the people of Tibet: 

“On behalf of the CTA (Central Tibetan Administration) and Tibetan people, I express my gratitude to the Chairs of the Congressional-Executive Commission on China and all co-sponsors for introducing the Tibet Policy and Support Act of 2019. The legislation sends a powerful message of support for the Tibetan and sheds light on the repressive policies and hostile intent of the Chinese government in Tibet. I hope this legislation will deter the Chinese government and officials from carrying on with their hardline and counter-productive policies in Tibet and move them towards dialogue and a peaceful resolution of the issue.”

The Chinese government — which strongly opposes Tibetan independence — has criticized this bill. During his regular press conference on September 19, 2019, Foreign Ministry spokesperson Geng Shuang said: 

“The so-called ‘Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019’ launched by some US lawmakers in the House of Representatives is a serious breach of basic norms governing international relations and a gross interference in China's internal affairs. It sends out a gravely wrong signal to separatist forces for ‘Tibet independence.’ China is firmly opposed to that. Tibetan affairs are purely China's domestic affairs. No foreign interference shall be allowed. We urge the US to fully recognize the highly sensitive nature of issues relating to Tibet, stop pushing the relevant act and stop meddling in China's domestic affairs with Tibet as a cover.”

In a press briefing in Beijing, Chinese Communist Party (CCP) chief of the Tibet autonomous region Wu Yingjie maintained that despite what others claim, Tibetans are free to practice religion, provided that their expressions of faith abide by regulations set by the regional government. Wu said, “The religious and spiritual freedoms and normal religious activities of the masses are protected by law.”

While human rights concerns have led to multiple China-focused bills in the Congress during the Trump administration, President Donald Trump has held back on human rights issues in conversations with China for fear of derailing trade talks. This is a source of concern for some in the Tibetan advocacy community, such as International Campaign for Tibet Vice President Bhuchung Tsering, was part of a task force that assisted talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama’s representatives in the 2000s. Tsering says, “There is that concern that this administration may sacrifice Tibet and human rights in general when it comes to some kind of reaching [of] an understanding with China [on trade].”

This legislation has four bipartisan Senate cosponsors, including four Democrats and four Republicans. Its House companion, sponsored by Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), has 18 bipartisan House cosponsors, including 12 Democrats and six Republicans.

The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT), United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), and Unrepresented Nations and Peoples Organization (UNPO) support this bill. 


Of NoteThe Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 (TPA), which this bill would update, is a core legislative measure guiding U.S. policy toward Tibet. It seeks “to support the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity.” Among other provisions, it establishes the State Department’s position of Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues and defines the Special Coordinator’s “central objective” as being “to promote substantive dialogue” between the government of the People’s Republic of China and Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, or his representatives. 

Among their other duties, the Special Coordinator is required to “coordinate United States Government policies, programs, and projects concerning Tibet”; “vigorously promote the policy of seeking to protect the distinct religious, cultural, linguistic, and national identity of Tibet”; and press for “improved respect for human rights.”

Since the TPA’s passage, three bills seeking it have passed the House of Representatives, but none have passed in the Senate: 

  • In the 113th Congress, H.R.4194, the House version of the Government Reports Elimination Act of 2014, would have eliminated a report required by the TPA, but that provision was removed in the Senate-passed bill.
  • H.R. 2410 in the 111th Congress and H.R.2601 in the 109th Congress both included substantial revisions to the TPA, but the Senate didn’t act on either bill.

Recently, concerns over the health of the 84-year-old 14th Dalai Lama (who fled into exile in India after a failed Tibetan revolt against Chinese rule in 1959) have raised uncertainties about his possible successor after his death. China claims control over the selection, saying that the Dalai Lama selection process must comply with Chinese law. Meanwhile, the Dalai Lama himself has said that if he returns, his successor will be born in a country outside of Chinese control. According to Tibetan tradition, senior Buddhist monks and other high-ranking religious leaders are reincarnated in the body of a child after their deaths.

In early November 2019, the Dalai Lama said that the Tibetan Buddhist tradition to reincarnated dalai lamas “should end now” because the hierarchy creates “a feudal system.” In a speech at his residence in Mcleod Gang, a small town on the outskirts of Dharamsala, India, he said, “Institutions need to be owned by the people, not by an individual.” Earlier, on October 25, 2019, he told college students from Bhutan and India that the tradition of reincarnated dalai lamas “should go” and “should not be concentrated in a few people only.”

In recent years, Beijing has sought to control the identification of other senior Tibetan religious leaders, including Tibet’s Panchen Lama. In that case, the Panchen Lama and his family were taken into Chinese custody in 1995, after which point Chinese officials installed another boy (of the CCP’s choosing) in his place. Today, the whereabouts of the Dalai Lama-appointed Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, are unknown

Alice G. Wells, Acting Assistant Secretary of State, Bureau of South and Central Asia, says, “The Chinese Communist Party claim that Dalai Lama's succession ‘must comply with Chinese laws and regulations’ is meritless. Tibetan communities, like all faith communities, should be able to select, educate, & venerate their religious leaders without government interference.” 

The Chinese Foreign Ministry takes issue with this view. After the U.S. Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback met the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, India in late October 2019, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said, “We urge the U.S. official to stop contacting the Dalai Lama clique, making irresponsible remarks and using Tibet-related issues to interfere in China's internal affairs.”


Media:

Summary by Lorelei Yang

(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / RalfJodi)

AKA

Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2019

Official Title

A bill to modify and reauthorize the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, and for other purposes.

    We should start fighting back against China’s disgusting oppression against its people, their lies, and what they have done to Tibet. Leave them alone, China. Punish China until they learn their lesson.
    Like (18)
    Follow
    Share
    I think a Congressional resolution is appropriate; of our Country’s belief in human rights and that it is our belief that that Tibetan’s rights as human beings are being violated by China’s policies. I don’t think we have the right nor the authority to unilaterally impose our beliefs on another country, unless we do so as part of a broader world community of allied partners. This appears to be another attempt to leverage an unrelated issue in order to force trade policy changes because we think we can. Our ability to enforce our will on other countries has been seriously diminished under our republican-enabled trump ‘rule’. The downfall of authoritarian regimes, of which we have increasingly become, is that their self-righteous beliefs, which by ‘proclamation’ are ‘right and righteous’, can simply be imposed on others. If needed, these beliefs should not be ‘policied’ by us alone because ‘we said so’ without allied interests and international cooperation and support. In particular, this all seems quite hypocritical given our own abdominal recent ‘human-rights’ abuses of Latino immigrants. ... ... ... It is always much better to ‘lead’ by our example than it is to ‘lead’ by imposing our self-righteous mandates.
    Like (47)
    Follow
    Share
    No. Instead, let’s take responsibility for our own genocides, broken treaties, and massive incarceration of minorities here at home.
    Like (28)
    Follow
    Share
    What about the human rights we are trampling on at our Southern Border?
    Like (23)
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    We don’t really have a leg to stand on. We have no moral high ground. Free Tibet? Sure, right after we free the asylum seekers who we have illegally imprisoned. See, that Glass House all around us?
    Like (19)
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    We will never change China through force. We will only assure their continued resistance to democracy. And, quite frankly, given our current state of affairs, we are not in any position to be calling the kettle black! A better choice would be to maintain the status quo with non-urgent policies such as this, and wait until the current administration is out of office before making any further foolish foreign policy decisions regarding China. We need a functioning State Department that is committed to NEGOTIATING and furthering our goals in China through diplomacy. Such diplomacy MAY require pressure tactics, but this administration conducts foreign policy with a sledgehammer, and should not be encouraged.
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    This is just one of many instances of CCP sponsored ethnic cleansing/repression that should be cause for punishment not just by the United States, but the international community as well. This includes Hong Kong, and the ethnic cleansing of Uyghur Muslims as well.
    Like (14)
    Follow
    Share
    Is this even a real possibility in the Trump Regime? Trump probably knows nothing about Tibet. Absolutely nothing! And he cares even less!
    Like (12)
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    The United States is no longer a credible example for anything anymore in the eyes of the rest of the world.
    Like (9)
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    What China is doing to Tibet and the Tibetan people is definitely wrong. However, our own treatment of other cultures, even and especially within our own nation, gives pause and precludes any right we claim to judge others. We first have to set an example with our own behavior to be able to claim the moral authority to criticize and prescribe the behavior of others.
    Like (8)
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    People that live in glass house should not throw stones. Clean the United States first.
    Like (7)
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    The United States seems to have trouble strengthening their own moral code - so afraid of OFFENDING someone - even the FGM laws banning the practice are so weak that they cannot be upheld in the courts - a country isn’t a free for all - it should stand for something and that doesn’t mean trying to please EVERYONE
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    Right JimK! Would it be nice if we could clean up our own act and get back to upholding the first principles of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. The current regime of whim and caprice "because I said so" needs replacing to allow us to get back on that correct path. A Congressional resolution is the appropriate level of response till then. Look at the way we treat Washington, D.C. and Puerto Rico - shamefully!
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    Tibet should of be free a long time ago. They have a peaceful belief.
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    No but the United Nations certainly should.
    Like (5)
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    We unfortunately have no leverage. They are a super power and we have shriveled and allowed China, and the up and coming Russia to fill in any influence we had in the world. So countable stop asking the US to weigh into other countries affairs. Trump’s “team” is guilty of human rights violations. He owns over 4000 orphans on the Mexican border. He stripped children and babies from their families, isolating them and now no one knows where these children belong. He supports ruthless dictators and snubs our allies. He needs to be arrested.
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    Free Tibet.
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    I will always support Tibetans. They have been treated horribly by the Chinese, who invaded their centuries old country and forced the Dali Lama to flee to India as a teenager. However, it is disingenuous for the US to hold itself up as a beacon of freedom, given our continuous adventures/wars to “bring democracy” to others.
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    Certainly. However, we nee to address our own human rights abuses (kids in cages, family separations, prisoner enslavement, etc.) In order to have any ethical or moral authority.
    Like (4)
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    You need to clean up America before you try and correct another country. We have a homeless crisis a mental illness problem California burning and Democrats that can’t stand with our president. Work on our problems let them worry about theirs.
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