His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet. Photo: File

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Washingon, DC — While expressing gratitude to U.S lawmakers for the recent introduction of the new comprehensive bill “Tibet Policy and Support Act of 2019” in the U.S. Congress, the United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF), strongly urges US lawmakers to swiftly pass it. USCIRF also welcomes recent measures to protect religious freedom in China.

If passed, the bill would impose sanctions and a visa ban on any Chinese official who interferes in the reincarnation system of Tibet, particularly the selection of a successor to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. In addition, the bill would require the Secretary of State to seek to establish a consulate in Lhasa, the Capital of Tibet.

“Without the right to choose their leaders, religious communities in China essentially have no freedom,” said USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer in a press release issued on October 10, 2019. “This bill sends a strong signal that the United States supports the role of Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders in selecting the next Dalai Lama and views any interference by the Chinese government as a religious freedom violation.”

“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,” added Commissioner Tenzin Dorjee.

“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,” Dorjee went on.

USCIRF's statement also welcomed the U.S. Department of Commerce’s decision this week to ban the export of certain technological components to 28 Chinese companies and organizations implicated in the mass internment of Uighur Muslims, as well as the U.S. Department of State’s announcement of visa restrictions on Chinese officials responsible for those abuses. In September 2019, USCIRF released a report documenting how the Chinese government uses surveillance cameras, biometric technology, and artificial intelligence to monitor and harass Tibetan Buddhists and Uighur Muslims.

In its 2019 Annual Report, USCIRF called upon the administration to use its authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and International Religious Freedom Act to enact targeted sanctions against Chinese officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations, especially Chen Quanguo, the current Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang and former Secretary for Tibet until 2016.

The USCIRF is an independent, bipartisan federal government entity established by the U.S. Congress to monitor, analyze and report on threats to religious freedom abroad. USCIRF makes foreign policy recommendations to the President, the Secretary of State and Congress intended to deter religious persecution and promote freedom of religion and belief.

The Chinese Communist totalitarian regime (PRC) began their invasion of Tibet in 1949, reaching complete occupation of the country in 1959. Since that time, more than 1.2 million people, 20% of the nation's population of six million, have died as a direct result of China's illegal invasion and ruthless occupation. In addition, over 99% of Tibet's six thousand religious monasteries, temples, and shrines, have been looted or decimated resulting in the destruction of hundreds of thousands of sacred Buddhist scriptures.