General Colin Powell expressed the incoming administration’s “interest in solidarity with the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet” when he appeared today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing. His statement came in response to interest from the Committee regarding the Bush Administrations approach to Tibet policy. Several Senators, including Chairman Helms (R-NC), Russ Feingold (D-WI), and Craig Thomas (R-WY), Chairman of the East Asian and Pacific Subcommittee, referred to Tibet in their exchanges with General Powell.

Senator Thomas asked General Powell what role the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues would play in the Bush Administration in light of the lack of success Clinton Administration appointees have had in meeting their central objective of promoting Sino-Tibetan dialogue.

“It will be an important role,” Powell responded. “We have been looking at organizational structures during this transition period. I have about figured out how to man that office, and the role it should have in helping us develop a policy that will hopefully bring some reconciliation between the people of Tibet, the Tibetans, and the Chinese.

“It’s a very difficult situation right now with the Chinese sending more and more Han Chinese in to settle Tibet. What seems to be a policy that might well destroy that society. I think we have to reenergize our discussions with the Chinese to let them know that this is another example of the kind of behavior that will affect our entire relationship. And show our interest in solidarity with the Dalai Lama and the people of Tibet.”

Mary Beth Markey, ICT Director of Government Affairs, said of Powell’s responses, “It’s gratifying to hear General Powell express solidarity with our cause and present a comprehensive Bush Administration position on Tibet.”

Chairman Helms closed the hearing by asking if General Powell had met the Dalai Lama. When Powell responded that he had not, Senator Helms suggested that he should and offered to arrange a meeting.

General Powell is expected to be confirmed as the next U.S. Secretary of State by a Committee vote scheduled for Thursday, January 18.