(Updates with Chinese reaction)
By Neha Arora and Lusha Zhang
NEW DELHI / BEIJING, December 22 (Reuters) – The political leader of the Tibetans in exile on Tuesday praised legislation passed by the US Congress that reaffirms the right of Tibetans to choose a successor to their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, a move that infuriated China.
China regards the exiled Dalai Lama as a dangerous “splittist” or separatist, and the latest show of support from the US Congress could strengthen the already strained ties between the two countries.
Lobsang Sangay, chairman of the Tibetan Central Administration (CTA), known as the Tibetan government in exile, told Reuters that the passage on Monday by the US House of Representatives and Senate of the Tibet Policy and Support Act (TPSA) was historic. .
The Chinese Foreign Ministry accused the United States of interfering in its internal affairs and warned the United States against signing the law into law, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs said on Tuesday. Foreign Wang Wenbin at a regular press briefing.
“We urge the US side to stop interfering in China’s internal affairs and refrain from signing such negative clauses and acts into law, lest it further harm our cooperation and bilateral relations. “Wang said.
China took control of Tibet after its troops entered the region in 1950 in what it calls “peaceful liberation.” Tibet has since become one of the smallest and most sensitive areas in the country.
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
The legislation calls for the establishment of an American consulate in the main city of Tibet, Lhasa, the absolute right of Tibetans to choose a successor to the Dalai Lama and the preservation of Tibet’s environment.
The legislation also proposes a “regional framework on water security” and greater community participation in dialogue with China on environmental monitoring in the region.
“The People’s Republic of China has already completed water transfer programs diverting billions of cubic meters of water each year and plans to divert more water from the Tibetan Plateau in China,” the bill said.
Environmental groups and Tibetan rights activists have expressed concern over China’s hydropower ambitions in the region, saying they could affect downstream water supplies.
China has said its leaders have the right to approve the Dalai Lama’s successor, which many see as a coercive attempt to control Tibet, where ethnic Tibetans make up around 90 percent of the population.
“By adopting the TPSA, Congress has sent a loud and clear message that Tibet remains a priority for the United States and that it will continue to support His Holiness the Dalai Lama and the CTA,” Sangay said.
“It is a victory for the struggle for Tibetan freedom.”
China accuses the United States of destabilizing the region by interfering in its internal affairs.
Relations between China and the United States have deteriorated to their worst in decades on a range of issues, including trade, Taiwan, human rights, Hong Kong, the South China Sea and the coronavirus.
The US bill also proposes a dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.