US lawmakers meet Tibet's Dalai Lama, pressure China on talks

Wednesday, 19 June 2024 - 18:41

A group of U.S. lawmakers who met the Dalai Lama in India on Wednesday said they would not allow China to influence the choice of his successor, comments expected to anger Beijing, which calls the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader a separatist.

The remarks come as Washington and Beijing seek to steady rocky ties while India pushes China to secure lasting peace on their disputed Himalayan frontier, four years after a military clash strained ties.

The lawmakers also signalled that Washington would pressure Beijing to hold talks with Tibetan leaders, stalled since 2010, to resolve the Tibet issue, with a bill they said President Joe Biden would sign soon.

Although Washington recognises Tibet as a part of China, the bill appears to question that position and any change would be a major shock to Beijing, analysts said.

The bipartisan group of seven, led by Michael McCaul, a Republican representative from Texas, who also chairs the House foreign affairs committee, met the Nobel peace laureate at his monastery in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala.

"It is still my hope that one day the Dalai Lama and his people will return to Tibet in peace," McCaul told a public reception after the meeting.

Beijing has even attempted to insert itself into choosing the successor of the Dalai Lama, he said, but added, "We will not let that happen."

The Dalai Lama fled to India in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet. The 88-year-old, who has battled health problems for years, is set to fly to the United States this week for medical treatment.

The question of the Dalai Lama's successor has been a thorny issue, which analysts say highlights the power and influence of the role, fuelling Beijing's tussle to control it.

Tibetan tradition holds that the Dalai Lama is reincarnated after his death, and the current leader has said his successor may be found in India.

Beijing has said the tradition must continue but its officially atheist Communist leaders have the right to approve the successor, as a legacy inherited from China's emperors.

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