The Dalai Lama meeting former US President Obama


About the author: Vijay Kranti is a senior Indian journalist and a keen Tibet-China watcher over almost five decades. He is Chairman at the Centre for Himalayan Asia Studies and Engagement in New Delhi.

In the parting days of President Trump when his Republican Party and the rival
Democratic Party were engaged in some of the dirtiest political fights of US democratic
history over so many issues, both sides looked more than keen to cooperate with each
other on two issues.

Interestingly both issues related to China and the Congressmen of both parties spoke and voted in unison to ensure that the two new bills on China were not only passed by the House of Representatives and the Senate but also ratified by the President before Mr. Trump’s term was over.

The bills pertained to China’s two colonies Tibet and Xinjiang. The first was ‘Uyghur Human Rights Policy Act of 2020’ and other was ‘Tibet Policy and Support Act-2020’ (TPSA-2020).

Official portrait of Vice President Joe Biden in his West Wing Office at the White House, Jan. 10, 2013. (Official White House Photo by David Lienemann).

The Uyghur Act makes it obligatory on the current as well as future US governments
to ensure that China rehabilitates and respects the human rights of its subjects in
Xinjiang which China occupied in 1949.

It calls upon the State Secretary as well as all concerned agencies of the US government to apply strong sanctions against every such Chinese political leader and official who is engaged in denial of human rights like torture, arbitrary detention and harassment of the Uyghur or other Turkik Muslims of Xinjiang.

Similarly the TPSA-2020 declares Tibet (colonized by China in 1951) as ‘an occupied Country’ and puts its weight behind the exiled Dalai Lama and his ‘Central Tibetan Administration’ (CTA) on a wide range of subjects.

The most prominent subject relates to identifying the reincarnation of present Dalai Lama after his demise and the enthronement of the new baby as the next Dalai Lama of Tibet.

The new law says that the final decision on this issue shall be the exclusive prerogative of Dalai Lama and the Tibetan people and that Chinese government has no right to interfere in this process in any manner.


A major highlight of these Acts was that both the bills were passed through both Houses with massive majority, far above the necessary two thirds needed for a constitutional change. In the 100 member Senate where opposition Democrats commanded 46 seats as against 52 of Republicans (2 being Independents), both the bills were passed with unanimous vote in all three votings.

In the House of Representatives too where the Democrat-Republican balance stood at 232-vs-197, the Uyghur Bill was passed twice with 413-1 and 407-1 votes. The Tibet bill too was passed with 407-1 votes.

This absolute understanding between the two sides on two such issues which China
considers as its ‘core national issues’ simply shows that President Joe Biden and his
Democratic Party government are going to follow the same Tibet and Uyghur policy as
President Trump did.

Official portrait of President Donald J. Trump, Friday, October 6, 2017. (Official White House photo by Shealah Craighead)

The only change one can expect in the Biden government could be in the degree of assertion or political temper accompanying deals with China on these two issues.

The enthusiasm shown by Biden’s Republican Party in the passage of the two bills and their inclusion into the US law book clearly indicates that a new cold-war era has started in US-China relations at least on the issues of Tibet and Xinjiang.


The most aggressive aspect of the TPSA-2020 is that it maintains the assertion of
TPSA-2002 that “Tibet is an occupied country under the established principles of
international law.” Another assertive aspect of the new Tibet law is that it formally puts
US government’s weight behind the Dalai Lama’s ‘Gaden Phodrang’ which, as the
highest national trust of Tibet, handles matters related to the personal and official
powers of Dalai Lama as the temporal and spiritual head of Tibet.

This trust is responsible for the search, identification, enthronement and upbringing of every Dalai Lama after his demise.

The Dalai Lama C:

The current Dalai Lama, his personal name being Tenzin Gyatso, is the 14th in this five centuries old tradition.

He was born in a poor farmer’s family in Amdo province of Tibet and was identified when he was four years old.

Reasserting the US Congress’ earlier resolutions of June 2015 (HR-337) and April 2018
(Senate-429) the TPSA-2020 makes it clear that, “the identification and installation of
Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders, including the future 15th Dalai Lama, is a matter
that should be determined solely within the Tibetan Buddhist faith community, in
accordance with the inalienable right to religious freedom.” The new US law clearly forbids the government of China or any of its agencies from interfering in the “selection, education and veneration of a future 15th Dalai Lama” and declares that such interference “would represent a clear violation of the fundamental religious freedoms of Tibetan Buddhists and the Tibetan people.”


In the traditional Tibetan system the lineage of heads and senior religious masters of
various Mahayana Buddhist lineages, including the Dalai Lamas, are selected through
reincarnation. In Tibet such incarnate lamas are called ‘Tulku’.

Every Tulku is considered to be the reincarnation of a specific manifestation of Buddha and commands high respect among Tibetan people in spiritual, cultural and social matters. Dalai Lama is believed to be the reincarnation of Lord Buddha’s ‘Karuna’ i.e. compassion manifestation.

In Chinese terminology the Tulkus are referred to as ‘Living Buddhas’.

TPSA-2020 openly challenges PRC’s ‘Order-5’ which asserts that each reincarnate
lama of Tibet, including the Dalai Lama, must be approved by the Chinese Communist
Party (CPC).

In practice this Chinese law means that every ‘Living Buddha’ must take prior written approval of the respective Buddhist Association of the local branch of the United Front Work Department before taking birth.

The United Front works as a special department of CPC in the central government to keep control on all 55 ‘minority nationalities.’ These nationalities include occupied countries like Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia and Manchuria as well as all religious and ethnic minorities like Muslim, Christian, Hui, Uyghur, Kazakh, Kyrgyz, Mongol, Bai and Miao etc.

‘Order-5’ was issued by the State Administration of Religious Affairs Bureau of the
CPC on 13 July 2007 and was implemented as a national law by the Beijing government
on 1 Sep same year.

Its sole purpose is to have a complete control over appointment of all ‘Living Buddhas’ of Tibet and use their religious influence to keep Tibetan population under control.

It is noteworthy that despite all controls and communist indoctrination of their Tibetan subjects, China has failed to tame Tibetan masses.

However the major target of Beijing and CPC leaders behind bringing in this law is to
install a baby of their own choice as next Dalai Lama after the present Dalai
Lama, who turned 85 last July, passes away.


The unhappiness of Tibetan people against their Chinese colonial masters can be judged from the fact that 153 Tibetans, at last count, have self-immolated over past few years demanding freedom for Tibet and return of Dalai Lama to Tibet.

Palden Choetso’s body inside Nyitso monastery, Tibet after self-immolation on 5 November 2011

In addition, the vast power of Tibet support groups across the world due to the international popularity of Dalai Lama too makes it a top priority for the communist masters of Tibet that his next incarnation should be under their control.

But the stern and unambiguous language of TPSA-2020 on this issue is a clear signal that US is not going to let Chinese leaders grab the next Dalai Lama.

The Act calls upon the US Secretary of State to implement embargo on the entry of every leader and official of PRC into USA who is involved in this process.

It also bars all US agencies, companies and organizations from dealing with the PRC government and its agencies and companies who are found involved in the incarnation exercise or denial of human rights to Tibetan people.

It is bound to personally hurt thousands of Communist leaders and Chinese officials whose family members have business interests in USA or are students in the USA.


Other clauses of TPSA-2020 too reflect a new aggressive mood in the US establishment
on the issue of Tibet.

While it maintains its keenness on restarting the dialogue between Beijing and Dharamshala, it has added new riders that this dialogue should be ‘without any preconditions’ and should be held with “Dalai Lama or democratically elected leaders of Tibetan community’.

In addition to giving formal recognition to the elected Tibetan ‘Sikyong’ (President of CTA) it provides for an endless shelf life to the CTA after the demise of the present Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama meeting former US President Obama

The new US law also strongly hits at China’s ongoing attempts to solve the Tibetan
issue through demographic changes as it demands the Beijing government to stop
migration and settlement of ‘non-Tibetans’ into Tibet and relocation of millions of
Tibetan nomads.

It also underlines US’ concern against China’s ongoing campaign of damming and diverting Tibetan rivers and damaging Tibetan environment through mindless mining and disturbing the glaciers in Tibet.


The TPSA-2020 also marks further hardening of US demand for establishing logical reciprocity in US-China relations.

It bars the future US governments from permitting the opening of any new Chinese Consulate office in USA until China concedes to the US demand to open its Consulate office in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

Lhasa in Tibet – C: CiteXt Wing – Unsplash

It also asks the US Secretary of State to ensure that American diplomats and journalists are given the same freedom to travel to Tibet as their Chinese counterparts enjoy in the USA.


Another important provision of this new US law with long term and wider implications
for China’s colonial presence in Tibet is its direction to the US Secretary of State to
work towards establishing an ‘International Diplomatic Coalition’ with the aim of coordinating international efforts in support of Tibet.

This clause of TPSA-2020 has potential of encouraging and opening flood gates of open support to Tibet by all those countries and power blocks like the European Union, India, Japan, Australia and Vietnam etc. who are sick of ever increasing aggressive and belligerent conduct of China and are keen to hit back.

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