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McGovern Bill Supporting Tibetan Human Rights and Religious Freedom Set to Become Law

Bill Strengthens U.S. Support for Tibet; Directs Sanctions on Chinese Officials who Violate Tibetan Human Rights

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Washington, December 22, 2020 | comments

WASHINGTON, D.C. – A bipartisan bill to support the human rights and religious freedom of the Tibetan people – written by Congressman James P. McGovern (D-MA), Chairman of the House Rules Committee and the Congressional-Executive Commission on China – is set to become law after being included in the omnibus spending package agreement just passed by Congress.

Full Text of the Bill (PDF)

The bill updates the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 to address the ongoing oppression of the Tibetan people by the Chinese government, and directs sanctions on Chinese officials who violate Tibetan human rights.

“Our bipartisan bill shines a light on the Chinese government’s ongoing oppression in Tibet and strengthens existing U.S. tools to protect the religion, language, and culture of the Tibetan people,” said Chairman McGovern. “It also reaffirms America’s commitment to the idea that human rights matter. It is essential that the human rights of all the people of China and Tibet are respected by their government.

The human rights situation in Tibet has gotten progressively worse in recent years. The Chinese government has refused to enter into genuine dialogue with Tibetan leaders. Restrictions on access to Tibet, for both Tibetans and foreigners, have been tightened. International journalists have stated that the isolation of Tibet is as bad as North Korea, allowing human rights abuses and environmental degradation to be concealed from the outside world. Chinese officials claim that they have sole authority to select the next reincarnation of the Dalai Lama, in violation of the religious freedom of the Tibetan Buddhist community. In the Tibetan Autonomous Region, new regulations on “ethnic unity” mandate acceptance and promotion of Chinese government ethnic and religious policy.

McGovern’s bill:

  • Establishes as U.S. policy that the succession or reincarnation of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, including a future 15th Dalai Lama, is an exclusively religious matter that should be decided solely by the Tibetan Buddhist community.
  • Sends a clear message that Chinese officials who interfere in the succession or reincarnation process will be subject to targeted financial, economic, and visa-related sanctions, including those contained in the Global Magnitsky Act.
  • Strengthens the role of the State Department Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues by including a mandate to work multilaterally to promote a genuine dialogue.
  • Mandates that no new Chinese consulates should be established in the United States until a U.S. consulate is established in Tibet’s historical capital of Lhasa.
  • Directs the State Department to begin collaborative, multinational efforts to protect the environment and water resources of the Tibetan Plateau.
  • Supports democratic governance in the Tibetan exile community.


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