China angered as Biden Administration appoints special coordinator for Tibetan issues

Under Secretary Uzra Zeya, US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. (Photo courtesy: State Department)

(, Dec21’21) – Secretary of State Antony Blinken has on Dec 20 designated Under Secretary Uzra Zeya as the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, a position mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002. The Indian-origin veteran US diplomat will serve on that post concurrently with her existing position as the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy and Human rights to which she was appointed on Jul 14, 2021.

The appointment drew criticism from China, telling the US to stay out of its internal affairs.

Acknowledging her appointment, Zeya has tweeted the same day, “I look forward to helping preserve the rich culture and traditions of Tibetans worldwide.”

In his statement of appointment, Blinken said, “Specifically, she will promote substantive dialogue, without preconditions, between the Government of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and the Dalai Lama, his representatives, or democratically elected Tibetan leaders in support of a negotiated agreement on Tibet.”

“She will promote respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Tibetans, including their freedom of religion or belief, and will support efforts to preserve their distinct historical, linguistic, cultural, and religious heritage.”

Welcoming her appointment, Sikyong Penpa Tsering of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) tweeted, “I look forward to working with @UnderSecStateJ to bring tangible progress in human rights situation in Tibet & resolve Sino-Tibet conflict through #MiddleWayApproach.”

And Dr Namgyal Choedup, the CTA’s Washington-based North America Representative, has said, “This is very good news and we hope that Biden administration will engage with His Holiness the Dalai Lama and encourage strategies that will push Sino-Tibetan dialogue forward.”

Interim president Mr Buchung Tsering of the International Campaign for Tibet advocacy group said he hoped “Zeya will work proactively at promoting dialogue between the Dalai Lama’s envoys and the Chinese leadership, as well as at advocating for US interests in Tibet, and advancing the cause of Tibetan Americans and Tibetans around the globe.”

However, Beijing has consistently refused to deal with a US coordinator on Tibet and China’s Washington embassy denounced Zeya’s appointment as “political manipulation,” reported the Reuters Dec 20.

“The US should stop interfering in China’s internal affairs or destabilizing Tibet under the pretext of Tibet-related issues. China will take all necessary measures to safeguard our interests,” it quoted embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu as saying in an email Dec 20.

Zeya is a 27-year Foreign Service veteran who has served in India, France, Syria, Egypt, Oman, and Jamaica.

She is the seventh US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, preceded by Robert A Destro (2020-2021), Sara Sewall (2014-2017), Maria Otero (2009-2013), Paula Dobriansky (2001-2009), the late Julia Taft (1999-2001), and the first appointee Gregory Craig (1997-1999).

Destro was appointed only in the last few months of the Trump Administration, and he received the then Sikyong Lobsang Sangay of the CTA in his office.


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