Kurt M. Campbell, President Obama’s nominee to be Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs, appeared before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for his confirmation hearing on June 10, 2009. He is the first senior level official at the State Department to come before the Committee who will have responsibility for the issues that come together to form U.S. policy on Tibet. The Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor; Assistant Secretary for Population, Refugee and Migration, the American Ambassador to China and the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues are all key members of the State Department policy team, and should be put in place in the weeks ahead.
In his confirmation hearing statement and in response to questions from the Senators, Mr. Campbell cited “issues associated with Tibet” among top priorities for U.S. China policy. He elaborated in a written response to a question for the record:
“Encouraging respect for human rights, including minority rights and religious freedom in all areas, including Tibet, is a top priority in our bilateral engagement with China. Secretary Clinton said in Beijing during her trip to Asia in February that the promotion of human rights is an essential aspect of U.S. global foreign policy. In engaging China on a broad range of challenges, we will have frank discussions on issues where we have disagreements, including human rights, Tibet, religious freedom, and freedom of expression. Secretary Clinton has pointed out that our candid discussions are part of our approach, and that human rights is part of our comprehensive agenda.
“We will not shy away from seeking opportunities to raise candidly with China’s leaders our concerns about the poor human rights situation in Tibet. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have discussed Tibet issues with China’s most senior officials, and I will do the same. Likewise, we will also encourage the Tibetans to pursue dialogue with the Chinese and identify areas where substantive improvements to the lives of Tibetans can realistically be achieved.
“This administration sees the talks between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama’s representatives as essential for resolving longstanding tensions in Tibetan areas of China and for safeguarding the distinct ethnic, cultural, and religious identity of the Tibetan people. We will sustain our focus on promoting substantive dialogue, directed at achieving meaningful results.”
Todd Stein, Director for Government Relations in the ICT Washington, D.C. office, responded to the Campbell quote by saying: “This is unambiguous language that should be viewed as such by the Chinese government. The expectation of ‘meaningful results’ echoes recent statements by President Obama, Secretary of State Clinton and Speaker Pelosi, all of which indicate a high priority for Tibet and a sense that rhetoric will not be enough to satisfy a new leadership that is looking for demonstrated progress on Tibet and is ready to support ways to achieve it.”
Kurt Campbell is expected to be confirmed swiftly by the full Senate as Assistant Secretary for East Asian and Pacific Affairs.