The U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues spoke on Wednesday with the Dalai Lama in a virtual meeting, telling him that Washington will continue to urge Chinese authorities to meet with the exiled spiritual leader or his envoys to find ways to protect the region’s culture and religion.
The meeting was the first between the Dalai Lama and Robert Destro, the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, since Destro was appointed in October to the Congressionally mandated position, which had gone unfilled since 2017.
Destro said in his meeting with the Dalai Lama that he and the U.S. government will continue to urge Chinese authorities to meet with the spiritual leader or his envoys to find ways to protect Tibet’s traditional culture and religion under Chinese rule, a source with knowledge of the discussions told RFA’s Tibetan Service.
The Dalai Lama in turn stressed the importance of preserving Tibet’s Buddhist religion as a source of benefit and moral values for the world, adding that Tibet’s fragile environment—now under threat from Chinese development projects—has a direct link to the survival of millions around the world, RFA’s source said, speaking on condition of anonymity.
Also meeting with Destro on Wednesday, Lobsang Sangay—the political leader, or Sikyong, of Tibet’s Dharamsala, India-based exile government the Central Tibetan Administration—praised Destro’s efforts as Special Coordinator during his months so far in office, calling him an “active and vocal spokesperson for the Tibetan cause.”
Restrictions on religion, other freedoms
Authorities in Tibetan areas of China “continue to severely restrict religious freedom, speech, movement, and assembly,” New York-based Human Rights Watch said in an annual report released on Wednesday.
“[They also] fail to redress popular concerns about mining and land grabs by local officials, which often involve intimidation and unlawful use of force by security forces,” HRW said.
State goals for poverty alleviation in rural areas have meanwhile uprooted hundreds of thousands of Tibetans from their traditional farming and grazing land, and other policies have promoted economic migration into Tibet from other parts of China and the phasing-out of Tibetan-language instruction in primary schools, HRW said.
“Intensified surveillance and intimidation in neighborhoods, workplaces, and homes has prevented public protest, a goal emphasized repeatedly by leading officials,” the rights group said.
A formerly independent nation, Tibet was invaded and incorporated into China by force nearly 70 years ago, following which the Dalai Lama and thousands of his followers fled into exile in India and other countries around the world.
Chinese authorities maintain a tight grip on the region, restricting Tibetans’ political activities and peaceful expression of ethnic and religious identity, and subjecting Tibetans to persecution, torture, imprisonment, and extrajudicial killings.
China objects to high-level foreign contacts with the Dalai Lama.
Reported by Tashi Wangchuk for RFA’s Tibetan Service. Translated by Tashi Wangchuk and Tenzin Dickyi. Written in English by Richard Finney.