Advocacy Group Pushes For Stronger US Engagement on Tibet

2019-06-21
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Matteo Mecacci, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, is shown in a July 11, 2018 photo.
Matteo Mecacci, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, is shown in a July 11, 2018 photo.
Lhuboom/RFA

The United States has voiced concern about human rights violations in Tibet, but has failed to urge China in top-level talks to resume dialogue on the status of Tibet with representatives of exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan advocacy group said this week.

The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 passed by Congress requires the U.S. president and his secretary of state to regularly push for such talks in their diplomatic engagement with China, the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) said in a June 19 statement.

And though President Trump has now met at least four times with Chinese president Xi Jinping, and secretaries of state Rex Tillerson and Mike Pompeo have met several times with their counterparts in China, there has been “no confirmation that dialogue on Tibet was raised during those meetings,” the rights group said.

In a Tibet Negotiations Report submitted to Congress at the end of May, the State Department lists U.S. concerns over human rights violations in Tibet and the destruction by China of Tibet’s “religious, linguistic and cultural heritage,” but refers only to one call to resume talks made by a U.S. ambassador-at-large for international religious freedoms.

“The Trump Administration has not yet raised at senior levels the issue of Tibet and the need to find a political solution through dialogue with the Dalai Lama,” ICT President Matteo Mecacci said in the rights group’s June 19 statement.

“The Trump Administration should speak eloquently and at the highest levels about this with the Chinese government as it confronts its policies on the world stage,” Mecacci said.

'Meaningful, direct dialogue'

Reached for comment on Thursday, the State Department said that the U.S. continues to encourage “meaningful and direct dialogue between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama,” pointing for example to statements made during a May 19-25 visit to Tibet by U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad.

“During his recent visit to Tibet, Ambassador Branstad encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, to seek a settlement that resolves differences,” a State Department spokesperson said.

“He also raised our long-standing concerns about lack of consistent access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, and expressed concerns regarding the Chinese government’s interference in Tibetan Buddhists’ freedom to organize and practice their religion,” the State Department said.

China has ruled Tibet since 1950, and Beijing has repeatedly accused exiled Tibetans, including the Dalai Lama, of stoking dissent against its rule, though the Dalai Lama himself has said only that he seeks greater autonomy and cultural rights for Tibetans living in the region as a part of China.

The spiritual leader fled to India in 1959 after a failed national uprising, and nine rounds of talks were later held between his envoys and high-level Chinese officials beginning in 2002. Talks stalled in 2010, however, and were never resumed.

Reported by Tashi Wangchuk for RFA’s Tibetan Service and by Richard Finney.

CH. 1: MANDARIN | CANTONESE

CH. 2: VIETNAMESE | BURMESE | KOREAN

CH. 3: KHMER | LAO | UYGHUR

CH. 4: TIBETAN

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