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US Focus on Tibet

October 20, 2020 By Lt. General P.C. Katoch (Retd) Photo(s): By Central Tibetan Administration
The Author is Former Director General of Information Systems and A Special Forces Veteran, Indian Army


Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay and Representative Ngodup Tsering during the meeting with the new Special Coordinator for Tibetan issues Robert Destro at the US State Department.

China’s biological bombing of the world, abrasive all round aggression in line with President Xi Jinping’s moves to dominate the world and growing US-China friction has led to America appointing an envoy for Tibet. China’s genocide in Tibet is not new but China’s economic clout kept the world silent. There were times when President Barak Obama was so much in awe/scared of China that he met His Holiness Dalai Lama behind closed doors and then made him leave through the backdoor of the White House, walking past piles of garbage bags. But now under President Trump, the State Department has appointed the first American Special Coordinator on Tibetan Issues in Robert A. Destro on October 13, 2020. The move is aimed to create pressure on China regarding the autonomy of Tibet and bring issues concerning human rights and forced labour in the region to the fore. Xi Jinping only has to blame himself for this.

Following Destro’s appointment, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticised the Chinese government in a statement, saying, “The United States remains concerned with the PRC’s repression of the Tibetan community, including the lack of meaningful autonomy, the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas, and severe restrictions on Tibetans’ religious freedom and cultural traditions within China.” Most significantly, the head of the Tibetan government-in-exile Lobsang Sangay met Robert Destro on October 16. Sangay tweeted, “Great honour to meet with the Special Coordinator on Tibetan Issues Robert A. Destro. This is the first time in six decades, a Sikyong (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) was formally invited inside the State Department. I want to thank the State Department for acknowledging the democratically elected leader of CTA and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for approving the visit. History is made today!”

China invaded Tibet in 1950-51 with some 30,000 communist troops. Over the last six decades plus, China unleashed a systematic cultural genocide in Tibet. The six million Tibetans were demographically overwhelmed by some 7.5 million Han Chinese. China has been systematically attacking the Tibetan language, literature, heritage and culture in a bid to make it extinct. Tibetan language has been replaced by Chinese in TAR. Once China succeeds in destroying the Tibetan language, the ancient treasure scripted over centuries will come to naught. Deliberate disappearance of bilingual billboards, license plates, road signs, name plates, official banners and storefronts in TAR are part of the cultural genocide. This is despite the Chinese Constitution guarantees ethnic groups the right to give priority to their own language in education and daily use.

Uighur activist Rebiya Kadeer wrote in April 2008, “The world has watched in horror recently as Tibetan monks, nuns and lay people engaged in peaceful demonstrations have been met with brutality by the Chinese People’s Armed Police. Tibet’s descent into chaos and violence is heartbreaking. As has been made clear by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, who has dedicated his life to peacefully promoting the Tibetan people’s legitimate aspirations for cultural autonomy and survival, lasting peace and meaningful change must be achieved through non-violent means.” Since 2009, Chinese genocide, persecution and suppression has forced 154 Tibetans from different walks of life in Tibet to self-immolate as a mark of peaceful protest against Chinese oppression.

In January 2014, three Buddhist monasteries (Dron-na, Tarmoe and Rabten) were forced to shut down in Driru County, Kham Region of eastern Tibet in TAR, where monks disappeared under the garb of CCP’s “patriotic re-education” campaign. Closed monasteries were turned into prisons. China has now enforced a programme for “Sinicization of Tibet”. A recent study by Jamestown Foundation has found that more than 5,00,000 Tibetans are being incarcerated into military-style training centers that act as labor camps similar to those for Uighurs in Xinjiang. Chinese officials cite Xi Jinping’s goal of eradicating poverty by end 2020 but the training program indicates these individuals will end up in low paid jobs.

Robert A. Destro’s appointment as America’s Special Coordinator on Tibetan Issues has set Beijing’s tail on fire. China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian stated, “Tibet affairs are China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. The setting up of the so-called coordinator for Tibetan issues is entirely out of political manipulation to interfere in China’s internal affairs and destabilise Tibet. China firmly opposes that.” But it is China that needs to not only be destabilised but balkanised since both Xi Jinping and the CCP have become a threat to humanity. China’s annexation of Tibet, Xinjiang and Inner Mongolia need to be reversed. China is particularly peeved at this point of time because it does not perceive easy capture of Taiwan and its suppressive tactics in Hong Kong is drawing global criticism.

During the UN Third Committee General Debate at the UN headquarters in New York on October 6, 2020, German Ambassador Christoph Heusgen read out a joint statement on behalf of 39 counties expressing grave concerns about the human rights situation in Tibet, East Turkestan (CHN: Xinjiang) and Hong Kong and called on China to respect human rights particularly of Tibetans and Uighurs. The statement referenced the letter of concern issued by 50 UN Independent Experts from 30 Special Procedures in June 2020 and stated that the countries shared their grave concerns. These calls were echoed by over 300 civil societies who wrote an open joint-letter to the United Nations. President of the CTA Lobsang Sangay had urged the UNHRC and the Member States to hold a special session to evaluate the human rights violations being carried out by China and to establish a country mandate of UN Special Rapporteur on China to monitor, analyse and report annually on the human rights situation in Tibet and other regions under the People’s Republic of China.

Thinlay Chukki, Special Appointee for Human Rights based in Tibet Bureau Geneva noted that, “more countries need to group together to question the concerning human rights situation in China especially in Tibet and East Turkestan. China’s human rights violations with impunity in Tibet is emboldening it to take further regressive actions like concentration camps in Xinjiang and the flagrant violations of international agreement on Hong Kong. It is time, India should openly support Tibet.