As US Secretary of State Antony Blinken prepares to visit China, the International Campaign for Tibet urges him to substantively take up the Tibetan issue with Chinese leadership. Blinken has the charge from the President, the Congress and the people of the United States to engage in frank and meaningful conversations with his counterparts in Beijing, and he must take action to help resolve the decades-old Tibet-China conflict while the Dalai Lama is still able to play an active role in negotiations and before the situation spirals further.
The American people have broad sympathy for the Tibetan people and concern for their plight. Under the Tibetan Policy Act, the State Department is obligated to act on this support for Tibet.
Then-Presidential candidate Joe Biden, in a letter released in September 2020, also committed to supporting Tibet if elected.
Specifically, Secretary Blinken must raise the need to resume dialogue between envoys of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese government. These talks have been dormant since 2010 while the situation in Tibet has only deteriorated.
The length of time since the previous round of negotiations and the Dalai Lama’s advancing age underscore the need for a concrete initiative by the US while His Holiness is active and can help ensure a peaceful resolution to the Tibet-China conflict.
Secretary Blinken himself said it best during a public talk on China in May 2022, when he pointed out that the rules-based international order “enshrined concepts like self-determination, sovereignty, the peaceful settlement of disputes. These are not Western constructs. They are reflections of the world’s shared aspirations.”
The US must ensure that the Tibetan people’s self-determination and their right to have a say in their future are protected if the Chinese government does not respond positively to a negotiated solution on Tibet.
This includes reiterating and following up on the United States’ position on the issue of the reincarnation of Tibetan Buddhist leaders, especially the US policy that only the current Dalai Lama and Tibetan Buddhists have the authority to decide on his succession.
Secretary Blinken also should elevate the imperative of ending Tibet’s isolation. Currently, on account of the Chinese government’s iron curtain around Tibet, the outside world remains largely unaware of the harsh reality Tibetans face on the ground, and the full picture remains highly difficult to ascertain. For example, while Chinese citizens have access to the United States, Americans do not have access to Tibet. In particular, Tibetan Americans face consistent discrimination at the hands of Chinese officials when seeking visas or communication with their families.
Secretary Blinken should also include Tibetan political prisoners on his agenda and call for their release during his discussions in Beijing. In particular, we highlight the cases of the Panchen Lama and Go Sherab Gyatso.
The International Campaign for Tibet urges Secretary Blinken to use his platform to send an important message to the Chinese government that the US will stand up for Tibetans and other peoples oppressed by Beijing.