The Biden administration State Department says in its first Tibet Negotiations Report that it “believes that a negotiated resolution that leads to meaningful autonomy for Tibetans and ensures they are able to practice freely their religion, culture, and language provides the best hope for long-term stability in the region.”

The report, submitted to Congress on May 4, “describes activities undertaken by senior U.S. officials from May 1, 2020 to April 30, 2021 to encourage dialogue and create conditions for a sustainable settlement” between the Chinese regime and envoys of the Dalai Lama.

Negotiations between the Chinese and Tibetan sides have been dormant since 2010.

US actions

The activities included:

  • In September, during public remarks to the media, then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called on the Chinese regime to engage in dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives without preconditions to reach a settlement on Tibet.
  • On International Religious Freedom Day in October, the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Robert Destro met virtually with international NGO activists to discuss meaningful autonomy for Tibetans and advocating for the religious freedom of Tibetan Buddhists everywhere.
  • Destro attended a virtual event on the anniversary of the conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize on the Dalai Lama in December. There he recognized the Dalai Lama’s advocacy for meaningful Tibetan autonomy and the preservation of Tibet’s unique cultural heritage.

ICT recommendations

In response to the State Department’s report, the International Campaign for Tibet makes the following recommendations:

  1. Under the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, the president and secretary of state must encourage the government of the People’s Republic of China to enter into a dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives leading to a negotiated agreement on Tibet. Subsequently, the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020 further strengthened this by asserting that the dialogue should be “without pre-conditions,” and that the administration “should coordinate with other governments in multilateral efforts toward this goal.”

    ICT recommends the administration fully execute the mandate of these laws and bring to bear all possible avenues of diplomacy.
  2. During the Trump administration, there was no confirmation that dialogue on Tibet was raised during the summit meetings between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping or between Secretaries of State Rex Tillerson and Pompeo in their meetings with their Chinese counterparts. The Trump administration only appointed a special coordinator for Tibetan issues in October 2020, three months before the scheduled end of its term, designating then-Assistant Secretary Destro to the position.

    ICT recommends the administration appoint a special coordinator for Tibetan issues as soon as feasible. The administration should also confirm in a timely fashion its discussions with its Chinese counterparts about Tibet negotiations.

In 2003, President George W. Bush delivered the first presidential report to Congress on the status of Tibet negotiations. In it, he maintained that lack of resolution of the Tibetan problem will be a stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement between the United States and China. Subsequently, he delegated to the secretary of state the submission of such annual reports.

ICT quote

The International Campaign for Tibet said:

“This first Tibet Negotiations Report by the Biden administration shows that there is much it can do to proactively support the resumption of dialogue on Tibet. This includes the early appointment of the US special coordinator for Tibetan issues, as the central mandate of this office is to promote substantive dialogue. During the previous Trump administration, the appointment of the special coordinator only came at the end of the term, and so there was no one to pursue a clear strategic policy on China to encourage it to resolve the Tibetan issue through talks with the Dalai Lama’s envoys. The Biden administration should avoid making the same mistake by appointing a new special coordinator as soon as possible.”

Read the Biden administration’s first Tibet Negotiations Report.