The administration of U.S. President Joe Biden will continue to promote policies supporting human rights for Tibetans living under Chinese rule, working with allies to press Beijing to engage in dialogue with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, the State Department said this week.
“We urge Chinese authorities to respect the human rights of Tibetans, and the preservation of Tibet’s environment as well as the unique cultural, linguistic, and religious identity of Tibetan traditions,” a State Department spokesperson told RFA’s Tibetan Service on Tuesday.
“The United States supports meaningful autonomy for Tibetans,” the spokesperson said.
The U.S. will also consider the use of “all appropriate tools,” including visa restrictions and financial sanctions to hold accountable any Chinese officials found responsible for human rights abuses in Tibet, the official said.
It will also press for access to Tibetan areas of China for travel by U.S. officials, journalists, and tourists, the spokesperson said.
Pursuant to the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, signed into law in 2018 by former President Donald Trump, “the Department has [already] applied visa restrictions on PRC officials who have restricted access of foreigners to Tibet,” the Department said.
Washington has long complained that Chinese diplomats, scholars, and journalists enjoy unrestricted travel in the United States, while China tightly restricts the access of U.S. counterparts to Tibet and other areas.
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has pledged to quickly appoint a new State Department Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues to replace former coordinator Robert Destro, who resigned with other officials appointed by the outgoing administration of President Trump, the Department said.
“The Secretary is committed to working with the United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues at the State Department and with the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom to promote religious freedom for Tibetans in China and around the world.”
‘The right message’
The Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet on Wednesday welcomed the State Department’s statement to RFA calling for a resumption of talks between Beijing and the Dalai Lama or his representatives, adding, “We hope to see this statement followed by concrete actions encouraging the dialogue that has not taken place since 2010.”
”The statement sends the right message to China by echoing the commitments on Tibet made by then-presidential candidate Biden during the campaign, including on holding China accountable for its refusal to allow U.S. access to Tibet and its denial of religious freedom to the Tibetan people,” ICT said.
Secretary of State Blinken should now fulfill those commitments by fully implementing all legislation supporting Tibet passed by Congress and signed into law by President Trump, including the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018 and the Tibetan Policy Support Act of 2020, which affirms the absolute right of Tibetans to choose their next Dalai Lama, ICT said.
Concerns over the advancing age of the Dalai Lama, now 85, have renewed uncertainties in recent years over his possible successor after he dies, with Beijing claiming the right to name his successor and the Dalai Lama himself saying that any future Dalai Lama will be born outside of China.
Also speaking in a statement on Wednesday, Ngodup Tsering—Representative of the Dalai Lama in Washington D.C.—welcomed what he called the “extremely positive and encouraging response from the new U.S. Secretary of State, Antony Blinken.”
“I wish to express my sincere gratitude to him and to President Biden,” Tsering said.
“[Progress] on all the major issues that we have been taking up with the U.S. administration is now assured, and on behalf of the CTA I greatly welcome this commitment to Tibet on the part of the new U.S. administration,” Tsering said, referring to Tibet’s India-based exile government, the Central Tibetan Administration.
A formerly independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, and the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world following a failed 1959 national uprising against Chinese rule.
Beijing objects to high-level foreign contacts with the Dalai Lama and attacks foreign expressions of concern and support for Tibetans’ rights as interference in China’s internal affairs.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of cultural and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
Reported by Tashi Wangchuk for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.