US support to Tibet cause: Congressional committees approve $ 17 mn aid


[PTI] Washington, Sep 12: As part of its support to the Tibetan cause, two key Congressional committees of US have approved at least USD 17 million to help the Tibetan government in exile to preserve its culture, help its refugees and develop institutions to promote its growth.

The provisions form part of the state department’s 2018 annual budget passed by the appropriations committees of both the House of Representatives and the Senate last week. It is at the same level as that of 2017.

Key provisions of the appropriations bill include USD 8 million to support activities that preserve cultural traditions and promote sustainable development and environmental conservation in Tibetan communities in Tibetan Autonomous Region and in other Tibetan autonomous areas in China.It has also made USD 3 million provision to strengthen the capacity of Tibetan institutions and governance.

The Senate Appropriations Committee in its report recognised the progress made by the Tibetan community in South Asia in establishing democratic institutions to ensure the welfare of such communities and the preservation of Tibetan culture in exile. Well aware of the developmental challenges facing Tibetan communities in South Asia, the provisions include USD 6 million to continue to support Tibetan communities in India and Nepal in the areas of education, skills development, and entrepreneurship.

Expressing concern over reports that Nepalese officials have handed over Tibetan refugees to Chinese border authorities, in contravention of Nepal’s international obligations to protect refugees fleeing persecution, the Congressional committee said it supports efforts by the Secretary of State to work with the Government of Nepal to provide safe transit for Tibetan refugees and legal protections to Tibetans residing in this Himalayan nation.

It has recommended USD 1 million for the Office of the Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. The House Appropriations Committee said it continues to support democracy and human rights programs for Tibet. As such it directed that not less than the amounts provided in the fiscal year 2017 be continued for such purposes.

In addition to USD 15 million for Tibetan issues, the appropriations bill supported the continuation of the Tibetan service of Voice of America and Radio Free Asia. It approved USD 42 million for Radio Free Asia, a substantial part of which would go to its Tibetan service. The bill has also asked the Secretary of State, Rex Tillerson, to instruct executive director of each international financial institution to use the voice and vote to support financing of projects in Tibet.