US State Department appoints new Tibetan issues coordinator

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. (Photo courtesy: AP)

(, Oct15’20) – The United States administration of President Donald Trump has finally appointed on Oct 14 a Special Coordinator on Tibetan issues, a position mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 but has been lying vacant since the end of the Barack Obama Administration on Jan 20, 2017.

Secretary of State Michael Pompeo has announced that Assistant Secretary Robert A Destro of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor will serve as the United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. Detro is a veteran human rights advocate and civil rights attorney.

“He will focus on advancing dialogue between the communist-run government in Beijing and the Dalai Lama, protecting the distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic identity of Tibetans, improving respect for their human rights and much, much more,” Pompeo was quoted as saying.

“The systematic violation of the most basic human rights for their own people and consistent repression in Tibet is one of the core challenges that we’ve identified from the Chinese Communist Party,” Pompeo has said.

“Whether it’s in Tibet, Xinjiang, Inner Mongolia, or Hong Kong, we simply are demanding of the CCP what we ask of every nation—to preserve the basic freedoms, human dignity, and religious freedom of every one of its citizens.”

However, not only has the appointment come only towards the end of the Trump administration’s current term despite numerous calls from lawmakers and others over the years but also the appointee is an Assistant Secretary level official rather than an Under Secretary of State official, as has always been the case in the past.

Destro is the sixth US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues since 2002, having been preceded by Sara Sewall, Maria Otero, Paula Dobriansky, the late Julia Taft, and Gregory Craig.

China has consistently refused to deal with the US coordinator, seeing it as interference in its internal affairs.

While welcoming the announcement of the new appointment, Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said the appointment of the Special Coordinator below the Under Secretary of State level will make it more difficult for the Trump Administration to implement longstanding US Tibet policy. It also felt that the appointment of the Special Coordinator at this level will be regarded by the Chinese government as a message that the Administration has downgraded the priority it gives to Tibet.

In fact Trump – unlike his White House predecessor, Barack Obama, and others before him – has never met the Dalai Lama during his presidency.

Meanwhile, speaking to reporters, Pompeo has also called the result of a vote on Oct 13, giving China a seat on the United Nations Human Rights Council “a win for tyrants, and an embarrassment for the United Nations.”


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