New Special Coordinator For Tibetan Issues Announced By The US

by Swarajya Staff - Dec 21, 2021 02:21 PM +05:30 IST
New Special Coordinator For Tibetan Issues Announced By The USTibetan national flag being raised to mark Tibetan national uprising

Talks between the Dalai Lama and Beijing have been in the cold storage since the 2000s. Now with the intention of restarting those talks and drawing attention back to the Tibet issue, the US State Department has appointed Uzra Zeya, 'a high-ranking official as its special coordinator for Tibetan issues', according to a report by South China Morning Post.

Zeya is the under secretary of state for civilian security, democracy and human rights. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said that with her appointment Joe Biden is stating that his administration is committed to raising a voice for human rights of Tibetans, as per the report.

The post of US special coordinator for Tibetan issues is mandated by the US Congress. Despite that the post was not filled for most of Trump's tenure. Only towards the end of his tenure, a lower-ranking official was appointed to the post.

Zeya, who will also continue in her under secretary role, will have primarily a three fold task. The report stated that according to Blinken it would be promoting substantive dialogue between representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government "without preconditions".

Since these talks broke down in the 2000s Beijing has tightened its control on Tibet and accelerated Tibet's Sinicization.

As per the report, Blinken added that Zeya's task will include promoting the religious freedoms, human rights of Tibetans and supporting efforts to "preserve their distinct historical, linguistic, cultural, and religious heritage".

Another focus area will be addressing the concerns of overseas Tibetans, including those who have been threatened and intimidated by Beijing.

The post of US special coordinator for Tibetan issues was established nearly 20 years ago but it was upgraded in 2020 after Congress passed a bill. This new legislation, the Tibetan Policy and Support Act requires the special coordinator to work with US allies for the purpose of ushering a negotiated resolution of the Tibet issue.

As friction with China has been brewing, Tibet along with Xinjiang and Hong Kong has increasingly become a bipartisan focus area in the US Congress.

The report states that Lawmakers during both Trump and Biden's tenure have been nudging the White House to strengthen its approach to counter Beijing's human rights abuses in these regions.

A week before Zeya's appointment as special coordinator for Tibetan issues, a group of bipartisan lawmakers wrote to her advocating for 'deeper engagement with Tibet's exiled government'. They also requested Biden to host the Dalai Lama. Out of the last 5 occupants of the White House, all except Trump had hosted the Dalai Lama.

The report quotes the bipartisan group of Senators writing that “Tibet matters to us, not only as an issue that is important to our constituents and the Tibetan-American community, but also as a tangible manifestation of a principled foreign policy that prioritises human rights and the quest for human dignity. We stand ready to work with you on this urgent moral issue”.

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