US appoints Assistant Secretary Robert Destro as Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues

DHARAMSALA, 15 Oct: The US has announced the appointment of Assistant Secretary Robert Destro as the US’ new Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.

“I am pleased to announce the concurrent designation of Assistant Secretary Robert A. Destro of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor to serve as the United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues,” the US Secretary of State Michael Pompeo said in a statement.

Pompeo has further said that “the US 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.”

Assistant Secretary Robert Destro has said in a tweet that “I am proud to serve as the State Department’s Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. I look forward to engaging Tibetans and our partners around the world to promote human rights and fundamental freedoms for Tibet in the PRC and beyond.”

He has further declared that “the deteriorating human rights situation and lack of religious freedom in Tibetan areas demand our attention” and that “the US will continue to seek dialogue between the PRC and Dalai Lama, protecting Tibetans’ unique culture, and promoting sustainable development in Tibetan communities.”

The appointment came a day after the US condemned China’s re-election to the United Nations Human Rights Council(UNHRC) “as a win for the tyrants and an embarrassment for the UN,” while the US-china relationship is at it’s lowest ebb in decades.

Ngudup Tsering, the Representative of Office of Tibet, Washington DC has said that the appointment was made in the wake of recent reports that half a million Tibetans are being coerced into forced labour by the Chinese officials in Tibet, reported, the official website of Central Tibetan Administration.

“This appointment is therefore a welcome sign of meaningful support for Tibet by the US Government. And we will gladly take this opportunity to discuss the Middle Way Approach with the Chinese government,” he was quoted as saying in the report.

However, hours after Pompeo named Assistant Secretary Robert Destro as the special coordinator for Tibetan issues, a Chinese official from Lhasa, Tibet’s capital has said that forced labour “does not exist” in Tibet.

According to a report on Bloomberg, China’s Tibet Governor Qi Zhala dismissed the labour has instead maintained that the local government was focused on “increasing the idle work force’s income through job-skills training,” and further sang praises on China’s poverty-alleviation efforts in Tibet.

Additionally, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Zhao Lijian has called Destro’s appointment a “political manipulation” meant to “interfere in China’s internal affairs and destabilize Tibet”.

The senior official from the Trump administration will now serve as the sixth US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, a post that lay vacant under the Trump Administration since 2017.

Sara Sewall (2014-2017) was the last US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues preceded by Maria Otero (2009-2013), Paula Dobriansky (2001-2009) , the late Julia Taft (1999-2001) and Gregory Craig (1997-1999).

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