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The US Congress has passed a bill that reaffirms the right of Tibetans to choose a successor to their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. The law has been described by Dharamshala, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile, as a historic move and a clear message to China.

US Congress on Tuesday passed new legislation that reaffirms the rights of Tibetans to choose a successor to their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, a move that infuriated China. Lobsang Sangay, Prime Minister of the Tibetan government-in-exile, welcomed the Tibetan Policy and Support Act passed by the US Congress, calling it a historic move and a clear message to China.

The Tibetan Police and Support Act of 2020 which was passed by the US Senate calls for the establishment of a US Consulate in Tibet's main city of Lhasa. It also underlines the right of the Tibetans to choose a successor to the Dalai Lama

Any interference by the Chinese government officials will be met with serious sanctions and deemed inadmissible into the United States, the statement also read. The President of the Central Tibetan Administration president, Lobsang Sangay said that this was a victory for the Tibetan freedom struggle. We have been pushing for this for the last two years. The move by the US Congress is a tribute to the great legacy of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the courage and solidarity of six million Tibetans inside Tibet.

Last month Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom Samuel D Brownback told reporters that China has no theological basis to pick the next Dalai Lama, according to a top US diplomat, asserting that the Tibetan Buddhists have successfully picked their spiritual leader for hundreds of years.

The Dalai Lama, then 23, had crossed into Arunachal Pradesh’s Tawang in April 1959 to escape the Chinese that had invaded Tibet nine years earlier and had brutally suppressed the uprising against Beijing’s rule. The Dalai Lama and the thousands of Tibetans who followed him were settled in the Himalayan town of Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh where he has been living in exile ever since. There are over 80,000 Tibetans living in exile in India; 150,000 more around the world particularly in the US and Europe.

China has been attempting to dismantle Tibetan Buddhism since then. It arrested Gedhun Choekyi Nyima in Tibet, just three days after he was proclaimed as the 11th Panchen Lama, the second highest Lama of Tibetan Buddhism, in May 1995. He has never been seen since. Instead, Beijing selected its own six-year old Gyaltsen Norbu as the 11th Panchen Lama six months later and enthroned him at Shigatse monastery.

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