US Senate recognises Tibetan Rights Day

26th April 2018

The vote yesterday also saw senators support the unique right of Tibetan Buddhists to choose the next Dalai Lama

The Unites States Senate has unanimously passed Simple Resolution 429 (S.Res.429) to commemorate the 59th anniversary of Tibet's 1959 uprising as ‘Tibetan Rights Day’.

Originally introduced on 8 March, the resolution was then referred to the Committee on Foreign Relations before being sent to the Senate. It was finally passed yesterday, 25 April. 

The date of the vote coincided with the 29th birthday of the Panchen Lama, who was kidnapped in 1995 by Chinese authorities and has been missing ever since.

The resolution, submitted by senators Patrick Leahy, Dianne Feinstein, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio, affirmed the US Senate's support for:

 the Tibetan people’s fundamental human rights and freedoms, including their right to self-determination and the protection of their distinct religious, cultural, linguistic, and national identity

Religious freedom

The resolution also recognised the growing interference by  Beijing in Tibetan Buddhism, resolving that:

…the identification and installation of Tibetan Buddhist religious leaders, including a future 15th Dalai Lama, is a matter that should be determined solely within the Tibetan Buddhist faith community, in accordance with the inalienable right to religious freedom

…any attempt by the Government of the People's Republic of China to identify or install its own candidate as a Tibetan Buddhist religious leader, including a future 15th Dalai Lama, is invalid interference in the right to religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists around the world, including in Tibet as well as the United States and elsewhere

S.Res.429 follows House Resolution 337 which was passed in 2015 and called for the US government to underscore that Chinese interference in the Tibetan reincarnation process would be a violation of the internationally recognized right to religious freedom.

This is especially important for the future of religion in Tibet given statements by the Chinese government that they plan to appoint their own Dalai Lama, as they have done with the Panchen Lama. Such a move aims to give the Chinese Communist Party unprecedented control over Tibetan Buddhism, a faith which they have attempted to manage due to its tight relationship with resistance by Tibetan to Chinese rule.

The 14th, current, Dalai Lama has made clear that no Chinese appointed Dalai Lama will be the legitimate leader of Tibetan Buddhism.  Free Tibet has been supporting this stance over the past two years through its Beyond Belief campaign.

Update: On the same day that this resolution was passed, the US State Department also made an official statement in support of Tibet which included a call to release the Panchen Lama. That statement can be read here.

TAKE ACTION

The Chinese government is threatening Tibetan culture. Religious freedom is not respected by Chinese authorities in Tibet.

13,000 of you have already signed up to our Beyond Belief campaign to prevent China from meddling in Tibetans' freedom of religion. We now want to take our campaign to the next level. If religious leaders from all faiths add their voice then world leaders will be forced to listen. Can you help us build this coalition to stand up for religious freedom in Tibet?