President Trump has signed into law a series of measures creating sanctions for Chinese Communist Party officials assaulting religious rights in Tibet, as well as blocking all new Chinese consulates in the United States until the ancient state is allowed an American consulate.
The bill, which was first spearheaded by Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., and Rep. Jim McGovern, D-Mass., was officially signed into law by Trump on Sunday. Entitled the “Tibet Policy and Support Act,” the forceful policy is already winning praise from the democratically elected Tibetan government-in-exile — and enraging Communist China.
“This bill instilled a deep hope for all the Tibetans around the world and especially for those Tibetans who are continuously suffering under the repressive Chinese policies,” the speaker of the Tibetan Parliament, Pema Jungney, stated in a formal letter of gratitude to Vice President Mike Pence. “We Tibetans are deeply indebted to the government and people of the United States of America for their unwavering support and kindness extended until now.”
The ancient mountain state of Tibet has been under an iron-fisted Chinese occupation since it was invaded and annexed by China in the 1950s. It has since been the victim of numerous atrocities against its people from the Chinese government, with the People’s Republic rolling in the tanks when widespread demonstrations against the persecution occur.
The newly passed policies altogether encompass some of the most actively pro-Tibet moves in recent American history.
“The Chinese government has attempted to cut off Tibet from the outside world,” said Commissioner Gary Bauer of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom. “But this bill makes it crystal clear that the U.S. government remains committed to advocating on behalf of the Tibetan people.”
Reincarnation and Communist Takeovers
While the bill supports Tibet across a range of issues, perhaps its most important focus is on the Dalai Lama — specifically, his reincarnation.
The aging Buddhist leader’s rebirth is the subject of an ongoing Chinese attempt to seize control of and splinter the devout Tibetan community. When the existing Dalai Lama, who was born and identified prior to the Chinese occupation, passes, the Chinese government has insisted on its right to select the next leader — a position at odds with centuries of Tibetan tradition. China has used the tactic before on other Tibetan religious figures, including making a six-year-old boy “disappear” so the CCP could select their own Panchen Lama.
The new policy firmly states the United States’ commitment to ensuring Tibetans, and not Xi Jinping’s lackeys, identify the new Dalai Lama. To support this commitment, the law subjects any Chinese officials who would attempt to interfere to sanctions under the Magnitsky Act. Additionally, the U.S. Department of State has been charged with crafting an international coalition to shatter the Communist Party’s dreams of a CCP-adoring Dalai Lama.
Countering the Chinese government’s ambitions has angered officials enough that it is even showing in their historically bland public comments. The Foreign Ministry’s head spokesman came out to formally state the Chinese government’s “resolute opposition” to the policy, and accused the United States of interfering in domestic affairs. He then ordered the United States to stop discussing Tibet altogether, “lest it further harms our further cooperation and bilateral relations.”
Chinese ambassador Ji Rong went even further, offering hints into how the secretive CCP elite are considering the moves. The ambassador claimed the policies “maliciously distort [Tibet’s] social development, makes groundless accusations, denigrates China’s ethnic and religious policies.” She also claimed the “real purpose of the act is to undermine Tibet’s prosperity” and that criticizing China’s actions in the region “gravely violates the fundamental principles of international laws”.
An Expansion of Repression
The policy comes as Communist repression in Tibet is worsening on a disturbing scale. While the Communist Party of China’s genocidal actions against the Uighurs in northern China is only now beginning to receive widespread media coverage, a disturbingly similar gulag archipelago has been in development in Tibet for years.
As was uncovered by a groundbreaking report in September from the Jamestown Foundation, the Chinese government has mandated more than 500,000 rural Tibetans enter into government camps just in the last six months. These camps use militarized methods to cure what they call the “backwards thinking” of Tibetans and “diluting the negative influence of religion.” The “training” is accompanied by schemes working to ensure rural farmers and herdsmen to turn over their land and flocks to Chinese corporations.
While these kind of camps have long existed across China, they are expanding particularly rapidly in Tibet. Documents obtained by Reuters show how the government there has begun using mass quotas in the region to collect rural Tibetans for the programs.
The camps in Tibet appear to have been orchestrated at least in part by the same set of Chinese officials, such as governor Chen Quanguo, who oversaw the implementation and creation of the now-notorious Uyghur concentration camps in northwest China.
And Taiwan Too
The “Tibet Policy and Support Act” was, remarkably, not the only critical step in China policy this week. Trump also signed into law the “Taiwan Assurance Act,” which aims to deepen strategic and military ties between the United States and Taiwan by normalizing arms purchases between the two. Once again, the policy is being lauded by Taiwanese officials and uniformly attacked by Chinese ones.
The bill also strongly supports Taiwan being allowed to join the international institutions the Chinese government has worked to bar it from. This issue’s importance was showcased at the start of 2020, when Taiwan possessed critical information on COVID-19- yet was blocked from participating in crucial international conferences on the issue by China.
“The United States is an important ally of Taiwan’s internationally, and a solid partner for sharing the values of freedom and democracy,” Presidential Office spokesman Xavier Chang said regarding the bill.
Both of these steps fit within a long pattern of the current administrations. The Trump White House has been far more willing to criticize the Chinese government, on issues from trade to concentration camps. Whether Joe Biden will maintain this pressure is yet to be seen, yet given his son’s apparent influence-peddling for cash from Chinese officials, it’s in doubt.