China warns of ‘resolute measures’ as US lawmakers meet the Dalai Lama in India over Tibet

A high-level US Congressional delegation met the Dalai Lama in India’s hillside town of Dharamshala on Wednesday, angering China which calls the Tibetan leader a dangerous separatist.

Democratic former House speaker Nancy Pelosi and Republican representative Michael McCaul were among the top leaders from Washington who reached the Dalai Lama’s scenic Indian exiled residence on Tuesday.

They took part in a high-level meeting and called for the freedom of Tibet from China.

China asserts that Tibet has been part of its territory for centuries although it only took firm control of the region after the Communist Party came to power in 1949.

The delegation of seven US lawmakers, led by Mr McCaul, the Republican chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, addressed hundreds who had gathered outside the monastery located outside the 88-year-old spiritual leader’s residence.

They also visited the offices of the Tibetan government in exile seeking autonomy for Tibet within China.

Mr McCaul, the Republican representative, said the delegation had overcome intimidation from China to meet with the Dalai Lama, the leader in exile in India since the 1960s, as he underlined the American support for Tibet’s right to self-determination.

“Just this week our delegation received a letter from the Chinese Communist Party, warning us not to come here ... but we did not let the CCP intimidate us for we are here today,” he said as people cheered.

The delegation members said they wanted to encourage dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese officials in the hopes of finding a peaceful resolution between Tibet and Beijing.

Among the list, the main focus of their visit was to underscore the Resolve Tibet Act, passed by the US Congress last week, and is now likely with the White House awaiting Joe Biden’s signature to turn it into a law.

Ms Pelosi said the bill is “a message to the Chinese government that we have clarity in our thinking and our understanding of this issue of the freedom of Tibet”, eliciting applause.

In an immediate backlash, the visit was condemned by Chinese officials on Tuesday, who warned of “resolute measures”.

A Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson asked Washington to not support Tibetan independence. The White House “must not sign the bill into law” or China will take “resolute measures”, said Lin Jian, a spokesperson for the Chinese foreign ministry.

“It’s known by all that the 14th Dalai Lama is not a purely religious figure, but a political exile engaged in anti-China separatist activities under the cloak of religion,” Mr Lin added, urging the US side to “have no contact with the Dalai group in any form, and stop sending the wrong signal to the world.”

The charges by Beijing have been denied by the Dalai Lama who said he only advocates substantial autonomy and protection of Tibet’s native Buddhist culture.

This visit is the latest flashpoint in the US and Congress relationship, which reached a communication point recently after several years of turmoil and contentious escalations.

Beijing does not recognise the exiled administration and hasn’t held any dialogue with the representatives of the Dalai Lama since 2010.