At the end of May, the State Department submitted to Congress its Tibet Negotiations Report, detailing steps taken by the Trump Administration in 2018-19 to encourage the Chinese government to take part in dialogue on Tibet’s future with the envoys of the Dalai Lama. Under the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, the president and secretary of state are required to push for such negotiations.
The report, the second by the Trump Administration, raises concerns about the lack of autonomy, ongoing human rights violations and destruction of religious, linguistic and cultural heritage in Tibet, a historically independent country that China has occupied and ruled with an iron fist for the past 60 years. “The United States believes the Chinese government must address these concerns to create conditions for a sustainable settlement, which is essential to the long-term stability of the region,” the report says.
However, in the section on “Steps Taken by Senior US Officials to Encourage Dialogue and Establish Conditions for a Sustainable Settlement,” there is only one reference to Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback calling on Chinese authorities to resume formal dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives.
During the Trump Administration, there have been at least four summit meetings between President Trump and Chinese President Xi Jinping. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and his successor Mike Pompeo have also met their Chinese counterparts several times.
But the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) has no confirmation that dialogue on Tibet was raised during those meetings. The report highlights remarks that Vice President Pence and Pompeo made about the human rights of Tibetans, but those were not about negotiations with the Dalai Lama.
“While engaging and confronting the Chinese government on many fronts, the Trump Administration has not yet raised at senior levels the issue of Tibet and the need to find a political solution through dialogue with the Dalai Lama,” ICT President Matteo Mecacci said.
He added: “The predatory and oppressive policies the Chinese government has imposed on Tibet for decades–and continues to impose—are now clearly being extended to other areas of China and beyond its borders. Promoting stability, religious freedom and the rule of law in Tibet through negotiations between the Dalai Lama and Chinese leaders is within US national interests, and the Trump Administration should speak eloquently and at the highest levels about this with the Chinese government as it confronts its policies on the global stage.”
The Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 also requires the appointment of a Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, whose “central objective…is to promote substantive dialogue between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives.”
The Trump Administration has yet to appoint a special coordinator.
The full text of the report that was submitted to Congress on May 30, 2019 can be read here.