China cautions against use of ‘Tibet card’, says it will damage bilateral ties
Against the backdrop of US President signing into law measures to bolster the right of Tibetans to choose the next Dalai Lama, Beijing on Wednesday cautioned that any move to play the “Tibet card” to meddle in its internal affairs would further damage India-China relations.
The Chinese embassy in New Delhi outlined Beijing’s position on the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020, signed into law by Trump on Monday, in a response to what it said were reports in the Indian media supporting the US legislation and “advocating Indian interference in China’s Tibet (Xizang) affairs”.
The unusually blunt statement from the Chinese embassy spokesperson Ji Rong called for “an objective and fair stance” on the “highly sensitive nature” of Tibet-related issues and China’s territorial integrity.
“We hope some Indian media take an objective and fair stance on issues concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity, grasp the highly sensitive nature of Xizang-related issues, look at Xizang’s economic and social progress objectively, do more to help China-India bilateral relations move forward instead of advocating playing ‘Tibet card’ to meddle in China’s internal affairs and further damage the bilateral relations,” Ji said.
There was no immediate reaction to the statement from Indian officials.
The development comes amid the nearly eight-month military standoff between Indian and Chinese troops on the Line of Actual Control (LAC), which has taken bilateral relations between the two countries to an all-time low. The two sides haven’t been able to agree on disengagement and de-escalation at friction points on the LAC despite several rounds of diplomatic and military talks.
Ji noted that under the “Declaration on Principles for Relations and Comprehensive Cooperation” signed by India and China in 2003, New Delhi recognised Tibet Autonomous Region as part of Chinese territory, and didn’t allow Tibetans to engage in political activities against China.
“It is in the fundamental interests of China and India... to enhance political mutual trust, properly manage differences, and strive to return China-India relations to the track of healthy and stable development,” Ji said.
The Tibetan Policy and Support Act, which was passed by the US Congress earlier this month, strengthens US support for Tibet, including by sanctioning Chinese officials if they try to appoint the next Dalai Lama.
The Chinese government usually refers to the current Dalai Lama, who has lived in India since he escaped from Tibet in 1959, as a “separatist” or “splittist”. China has also bristled at visits by the Dalai Lama to areas such as Arunachal Pradesh, which it claims.
Chinese officials have said the next Dalai Lama will be chosen within Tibet in compliance with Chinese laws and regulations and through a process that will have to be ratified by authorities in Beijing. They have also said that the current Dalai Lama and India cannot have any role in this process.
The Chinese embassy spokesperson contended the US legislation “maliciously distorts [Tibet’s] social development, makes groundless accusations, denigrates China’s ethnic and religious policies, and interferes in the normal reincarnation procedure of living Buddhas under the pretext of human rights and religion”.
She further contended that the “real purpose of the act is to undermine Xizang’s prosperity and stability” and that the legislation “grossly interferes in China’s internal affairs and gravely violates the fundamental principles of international laws”.
The spokesperson claimed Tibet “has been part of China since ancient times” and its affairs are “purely China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference”.
Tibet-related issues are “not about ethnicity, religion or human rights, but an important matter of principle concerning China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity”, and the Chinese government is “determined in safeguarding national sovereignty, security and development interests”, she said.
“China firmly opposes any country, organisation or individual supporting the anti-China separatist activities of the ‘Tibetan independence’ forces in any form and under any pretext,” she added.