US announces new 'special coordinator' for Tibet

AFP , Monday 20 Dec 2021

The United States named a new "special coordinator for Tibetan Issues" on Monday, who will be tasked with restarting dialogue between the Dalai Lama and China, as well as promoting "respect for the human rights" of Tibetans.

The 14th Dalai Lama
File Photo: The 14th Dalai Lama speaks during an event on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. AFP

By assigning the role to a high-ranking official -- Under Secretary Uzra Zeya -- the Biden administration was demonstrating its commitment to addressing Tibetan issues, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an announcement.

While continuing to serve in her current role, Zeya will "promote dialogue between the government of the People's Republic of China (PRC) and the Dalai Lama, his representatives, or democratically elected Tibetan leaders," Blinken said.

"She will promote respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Tibetans, including their freedom of religion or belief," he added.

The announcement will likely increase tension between the United States and China.

President Joe Biden had been pressed to act after a bipartisan group from Congress wrote to him in mid-December, requesting that he meet with the Dalai Lama, 86, and press China to restart negotiations which ended over 12 years ago.

China's lack of interest in dialogue has led many observers to believe that Beijing is waiting out the Dalai Lama, hoping that the global movement he has built for greater rights in Tibet will wither away without the leadership of the Buddhist monk turned cultural icon.

This year, Beijing celebrated the 70th anniversary of what it calls the "peaceful liberation" of Tibet, when the communist regime took control of the vast Himalayan region after the Chinese Civil War.

In 1959, after a failed riot against the Chinese presence in Tibet, the Dalai Lama fled to India.

His supporters accuse the Chinese government of suppressing Tibetan culture and religion by destroying thousands of holy sites and organizing the mass influx of han Chinese, the ethnic majority in China.

He has met with every US president since George H.W. Bush, except former president Trump.

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