US names Tibet coordinator, drawing warning from China

Ms Uzra Zeya would lead US efforts to preserve the Chinese-ruled territory's heritage in the face of human rights abuses by Beijing. PHOTO: AFP

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The United States on Monday (Dec 20) named Under Secretary of State Uzra Zeya as special coordinator for Tibet, drawing a warning from China to stay out of its internal affairs.

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Ms Zeya, who is responsible for democracy and human rights, would lead US efforts to preserve the Chinese-ruled territory's religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage in the face of human rights abuses by Beijing.

Beijing has consistently refused to deal with a US coordinator on Tibet and China's Washington embassy on Monday denounced the move as "political manipulation".

"The US should stop interfering in China's internal affairs or destabilising Tibet under the pretext of Tibet-related issues. China will take all necessary measures to safeguard our interests," embassy spokesman Liu Pengyu said in an email, without elaborating.

Mr Blinken said Ms Zeya would also seek to promote dialogue between China and Tibet's spiritual leader in exile, the Dalai Lama, or democratically elected Tibetan leaders.

"She will lead US efforts to preserve the religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage of Tibetans who are facing human rights abuses and challenges to their livelihoods and environment," Mr Blinken said in a tweet.

China reacted angrily last year and also accused the US of seeking to destabilise Tibet after the administration of former US president Donald Trump appointed Ms Zeya's predecessor to the same role.

US-China relations have been at their lowest point in decades over a range of issues, including trade, Taiwan, human rights, the South China Sea and the coronavirus.

China seized control of Tibet after its troops entered the region in 1950 in what it calls a "peaceful liberation".

Tibet has since become one of the most restricted areas in the country. Critics, led by the Dalai Lama, say Beijing's rule amounts to "cultural genocide".

The International Campaign for Tibet advocacy group welcomed Ms Zeya's new role and in an e-mailed statement its interim president Bhuchung Tsering urged Ms Zeya to take the lead in gathering support from like-minded countries to formulate a common approach on Tibet, as mandated by the Tibetan Policy and Support Act passed in the US last year.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.