US lawmakers meet Dalai Lama, warn China on choice of successor - Hindustan Times
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US lawmakers meet Dalai Lama, warn China on choice of successor

Jun 19, 2024 08:54 PM IST

Delegation head Michael McCaul says members, including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, defied Chinese Communist Party warning against coming to Dharamshala.

A group of US lawmakers, who met the Dalai Lama at McLeodganj near Dharamshala, on Wednesday said they would not allow China to influence the choice of his successor, comments expected to anger Beijing, which calls the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader a separatist.

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama with former US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the US Congressional delegation after a meeting in McLeodganj near Dharamshala on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)
Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama with former US House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi and other members of the US Congressional delegation after a meeting in McLeodganj near Dharamshala on Wednesday. (PTI Photo)

The remarks come as Washington and Beijing seek to steady rocky ties, while India pushes China to secure lasting peace on their disputed Himalayan frontier, four years after the military clash at Galwan Valley in Ladakh strained ties.

The lawmakers also signalled that Washington would pressure Beijing to hold talks with Tibetan leaders, stalled since 2010, to resolve the Tibet issue, with a bill they said President Joe Biden would sign soon.

After an hour-long meeting with the Dalai Lama, the head of the bipartisan group of seven lawmakers, Michael McCaul, a Republican representative from Texas who also chairs the House foreign affairs committee, said: “We are here just one week after the House of Representatives and the Congress passed the Resolve Tibet Act. This Bill makes it clear that the US believes that Tibet has its own unique language, religion and culture. It has a right to self-determination. The Bill also requires the state department to aggressively challenge Chinese Communist Party (CCP) propaganda about Tibet.”

The Bill rejects China’s contention that Tibet has been part of the country since ancient times and urges Beijing to “cease its propagation of disinformation about the history of Tibet, the Tibetan people, and Tibetan institutions, including that of the Dalai Lama.”

McCaul said that they hope that one day the Dalai Lama and his people will return to their home in Tibet in peace. “Decades later, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) continues to threaten the freedom of the Tibetan people. They have even attempted to insert themselves into the succession of the Dalai Lama. We will not let that happen. Even after the violence and forcible removal from his homeland, the Dalai Lama continues to preach tolerance, peace and forgiveness,” he said.

He said the delegation, including former Speaker Nancy Pelosi, had received a letter from the CCP, warning them against coming to Dharamshala. “Our delegation received a letter from the CCP, warning us not to come here. They repeated their false claim that Tibet has been a part of China since the 13th century but we did not let the CCP intimidate us, for we are here today. The Dalai Lama knows that this is not true that Tibet is a part of China and the people of Tibet know that is not true. The US also knows that it is not true,” McCaul said.

He said that the Tibetan people should have a say in their own future. “You should be able to freely practice your religion. That is why we are here today, in defiance of that warning,” he said.

The US House of Representatives passed a Bill on June 12 urging China to re-engage with the Dalai Lama and other Tibetan leaders to resolve the dispute over the status of Tibet.

Nancy Pelosi accuses China of erasing Tibetan culture

Pelosi, who described her meeting with the Dalai Lama as a blessing, said that the legislation passed last week sends a clear message to the Chinese government. “We have clarity in our thinking and understanding of this issue of the freedom of Tibet. “When we went to Tibet, we saw ourselves. We saw the Potala Palace and the room where His Holiness grew up, his bedroom, which remains there for his return. I can tell you this: They (Chinese government) are trying to erase the culture, reduce the use of the language. They are attempting something we cannot let them get away with,” she said.

“We know what the Chinese government is up to. They must get the message, and this legislation sends that message and it will be soon signed by President Biden. In Tibet, they are trying to educate the children in the Chinese way to diminish their knowledge of the Tibetan language and have surveillance on everything families there do. We just cannot let this happen.”

Significant breakthrough: Penpa Tsering

Congressional approval of the Bill is a significant breakthrough, said Penpa Tsering, the political leader of the exiled Tibetan government, who believed it would put pressure on Beijing to negotiate. But the Dalai Lama had always sought “autonomy or a middle way, not independence” for Tibet, he added.

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