Published By Tenzin Saldon

Image design by Tenzin Jigme/CTA

Dharamshala: The US Department of State supports the goals of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act and will take steps to implement the bill if it becomes law, a department official said at a Subcommittee Hearing titled ‘The China Challenge, Part 3: Democracy, Human Rights, and the Rule of Law’ on 4 December. The hearing also affirmed US’s clear position on the Dalai Lama’s reincarnation, saying that the Congress would reject the Chinese government appointment of the next Dalai Lama.

Senator Cory Gardner (R-Colorado) presided over the hearing which lasted for around two and a half hours.

Members of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on East Asia, the Pacific and International Cybersecurity Policy and representatives from the State Department and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) attended the hearing.

During the session of Questions on Tibet, Sen Gardner asked several questions to Laura Stone, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau Of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, US Department of State, mainly with regard to implementing the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2002 and issues relating to the recognition of the reincarnation of His Holiness the Dalai Lama.

“I ask the question regarding the Catholic Church policy, the agreement they reached with China and with Dalai Lama, China has said that they will pick the next Dalai Lama… If China proceeds and imposes the new Dalai Lama, what would the US response be?”

Laura Stone, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary, Bureau Of East Asian and Pacific Affairs, US Department of State responded: “The fact that you’re asking that question is an important signal in itself to the Chinese government that this is the kind of issue that we are watching very closely and at very senior levels.”

“The US has a clear position that religious decisions should be made within religious organizations. This isn’t the role of State.” She added that the position is widely supported by the US public.

Sen Gardner thanked the Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary for the response statement and said, “I think it’s clear that this Congress would not recognize a Chinese imposition [of a new Dalai Lama]”

Mentioning the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, which mandates American officials to visit Tibet on a regular basis, Sen Gardner said: “We know that very few [American] diplomats and officials have been able to visit Tibet to date primarily because of issues with the Chinese government refusing to grant access. Could you describe the level of access to Tibet that your agency has received over the past three years?”

Laura Stone responded by saying that she did not have the exact details and asked to produce the report at a later point. However, she informed the chair that the US Department of State supports the goals of the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act and will take steps to implement the bill if it becomes law.

The Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act promotes access to Tibet for United States officials, journalists, NGOs and citizens. The Chinese officials who deny Americans entry to Tibet will be denied entry to the US according to the Act. Last week, the Act was unanimously approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. It now needs to pass the full Senate and be signed into law by President Trump.

Previously in her testimony, Laura Stone expressed that Department is concerned about the lack of meaningful autonomy for Tibetans, and “regularly urge China to cease restrictions on the rights of Tibetans, as well as their unique religious, linguistic, and cultural traditions and practices.”

“There have been continued reports that Tibetan Buddhists have been subjected to forced disappearance, physical abuse, arbitrary detention, and arrest. The Chinese government asserts authority over the selection, approval, and veneration of reincarnations of Tibetan Buddhist lamas and supervises their religious education. We remain concerned about the lack of meaningful autonomy for Tibetans, and we regularly urge China to cease restrictions on the rights of Tibetans, as well as their unique religious, linguistic, and cultural traditions and practices,” she said.

Gloria Steele, acting assistant administrator in the Bureau for Asia at USAID, highlighted the USAID’s support for Tibetans inside Tibet and in exile.

“As an oppressed religious minority in China, Tibetans face restrictions on their rights, as well as their unique religious, linguistic and cultural traditions and practices. With strong bipartisan support in Congress, USAID partners to help protect and preserve Tibetans’ threatened way of life.

For nearly 20 years, USAID has supported Tibetan communities in and around the Tibet Autonomous Region and in other areas of China. Within China, we support the promotion and preservation of Tibetan culture and the resilience of Tibetan communities… To-date, USAID has supported the preservation of nearly seven million Tibetan cultural heritage items, including documented cultural traditions and historically important Tibetan texts — many previously unknown, including text composed by the Fifth Dalai Lama, Steele said.

Since 2012, USAID has supported Tibetan communities in India and Nepal by strengthening their health and education systems; professional training for teachers in 75 Tibetan schools, benefitting over 21,000 students in India and Nepal; bolstered the public leadership skills of over 330 Central Tibetan Administration staff, pilot program to help sustain or grow businesses through small, low-interest loans. In the 2017 fiscal year, the program helped more than 800 microenterprises with a 100 percent on-time repayment rate.

Report sourced from ICT.

 

 

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