The United States is looking to lay down a red line against China handpicking the successor of the octogenarian Dalai Lama as Tibetans start fighting with the once unimaginable prospect of Dalai Lama’s passing.

Senior officials and legislation under consideration in Congress warned, that the US is hoping to make clear in advance that Beijing would face international criticism it tries to take over the reincarnation process.

The 84-year-old 14th Dalai Lama has slowed his once continuous travel down a notch. Earlier this year, he was hospitalized for a chest infection, though there is no indication he faces serious health issues. 

Beijing and Tibetan activists both are very aware that his death will mark a major setback in his push for more autonomy for the Himalayan region, depriving the cause of a Nobel Prize winner whose mortal teachings and idiosyncratic humor have made him one of the world’s popular religious leaders. 

However, China held no talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives for nine years and has increasingly hinted it may identify his successor. On Wednesday, David Stilwell, the top State Department official for East Asia, promised before Congress that the United States would keep pressing for “meaningful autonomy” for Tibetans.

“Disturbingly — and ironically — the party continues to assert its role in the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation process, even as President Xi has urged party members to remain ‘unyielding Marxist atheists,'” he said.

“We believe that Tibetans, like all faith communities, must be able to practice their faith freely and select their leaders without interference,” he added.

The president of the International Campaign for Tibet, Matteo Mecacci said that the legislation that was introduced in the US Congress would send a clear message both to China and Tibetans. 

“We hope that the Dalai Lama will live much longer, but having early legislation, I think, will have an impact on Chinese thinking,” Mecacci said.

“I’m not saying this is going to change the decision of the Chinese government, but they will probably have to reconsider some of the fallout and its implications,” he said.

The US law may have a serious impact on decision-makers in Europe and Asia and warned of international effects if China installs a compliant Dalai Lama.

“If you have a religious leader who is the arm of a foreign government and who has Buddhist centers around the world, this is part of a much more ambitious plan to control Buddhism,” he said.

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