In the 14th annual report to Congress on the status of Tibet negotiations, the Obama Administration has reaffirmed that encouraging substantive dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese leadership is a key objective of his administration’s policy. Noting that there has not been dialogue since 2010, the report says the US is concerned by China’s insistence on “unreasonable and unattainable conditions in order for China to resume dialogue.” It says, “We consider this position counter-productive and contrary to the expectations of the United States and the international community. We support dialogue without preconditions.”

The Tibet negotiations report, which is mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, was transmitted from Secretary of State John Kerry to the Congress. The report details the steps the Administration has taken to encourage “substantive dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s representatives and the Chinese government to resolve long-standing issues, and stresses that a dialogue that produces results would be positive for China and Tibetans.”

The following are some of the steps taken by the Administration:

  • President Obama raising the issue of Tibet in a joint press conference with President Xi Jinping in Beijing on September 25, 2015;
  • Under Secretary Sewall meeting with the Dalai Lama twice during the reporting period, on January 16, 2016, in Dharamsala, India and on June 13, 2016, in Washington, to discuss nonviolent approaches to conflict resolution, climate change, and questions of preserving Tibetan culture, religion, and education;
  • The US delegation at the 19th U.S.-China Human Rights Dialogue on August 13, 2015 urging China to renew dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives and provide greater access to Tibetan areas by diplomats and journalists.
  • Assistant Secretary of State for Human Rights Democracy and Labor Tom Malinowski urging China during an October 14 meeting in Beijing with the State Administration for Religious Affairs in Beijing for an end to state interference in the religious process of identifying reincarnate Tibetan lamas;
  • At the April 2016 U.S.-China Consular Dialogue, the United States proposed the establishment of a mechanism for consular officers and staff to be able to travel to the TAR on short notice to assist distressed U.S. citizens with minimal delay.

The report highlights the positive role of the Dalai Lama saying, “The U.S. government believes that the Dalai Lama or his representatives can be constructive partners for China as it deals with continuing tensions in Tibetan areas. The Dalai Lama’s views continue to be widely reflected within Tibetan society and he represents the views of the vast majority of Tibetans. His consistent advocacy of non-violence is a key in reaching a lasting solution for Tibetans. Chinese government engagement with the Dalai Lama or his representatives to resolve problems facing Tibetans is in the interest of the Chinese government and the Tibetan people. Failure to address these problems will lead to greater tensions inside China and will be an impediment to China’s social and economic development, as well as continue to be a stumbling block to fuller political and economic engagement with the United States.”

Of particular note in the 2016 report is the reference to the issue of the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation. The report says, “Regarding decisions on the succession or reincarnation of the next Dalai Lama, we believe that the basic and universally recognized right of religious freedom demands that any such decision must be reserved to the current Dalai Lama, Tibetan Buddhist leaders, and the Tibetan people. We are concerned that the death of the Dalai Lama in exile without a resolution of differences likely would increase instability in China, and we encourage China to adopt policies that would reduce the risk of unrest and resume dialogue with the current Dalai Lama while he remains healthy.”

You can find a PDF copy of the full report here.