Source Credit: Live Mint

On Friday, President-elect Donald Trump, urged the head of the Tibetian government to ditch backdoor diplomacy on furthering the Tibetan cause, and to be more confrontational.

Lobsang Sangay said since Washington reached out to Beijing back in the 1970s, its European allies and the United States have sought to engage China over allegations of repression. This effectively drove the Tibetan issue out of public forums.

The Harvard-educated legal scholar told Reuters in an interview, that the approach had not worked, and human rights abuses had only worsened. He said that Beijing had grown even more assertive, from repressing dissent in Hong Kong, to threatening neighbors over the South China Sea dispute.

“It’s time for an open discourse where we press the Chinese government. We are not saying put sanctions, but that we be forthright, be frank on what’s going on in Tibet, and in China in general, and to raise the issue.” Sangay furthered, “And publicly share what’s going on what has happened, because we have to make the Chinese government accountable.” 

These remarks came ahead of the release of a report on what activists see as the erosion of Tibetans’ religious and ethnic identity and the degradation of their environment.

Of course, China fired back…

Who’s Really Promoting Unrest?

Blaming the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, for promoting unrest, China denies accusation by exiles and human rights groups of abuses in Tibetan parts of the country. China insists it allows freedom of religion.

Sangay said that Trump has signaled a more “upfront and assertive policy” towards China.   Tibetans, who number 150,000 abroad and about 6 million in their home region, are waiting to see how it translates with regard to their struggle.

Triggering a diplomatic protest from China, Trump took a phone call this month from Taiwan President Tsai Ing-wen. The president-elect said the United States did not necessarily have to stick to its long-held stance that Taiwan is part of “one China.”

What does this mean for America’s future?

A Long-Standing Friend Of Beijing?

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According to a source insider, Trump plans to nominate a long-standing friend of Beijing, Iowa Governer Terry Branstad, as the next U.S. ambassador to China. To balance matters, a former Bush administration official, John Bolton, who has urged a tougher line on Beijing, is being considered for the deputy job at the U.S. State Department.

Sangay said Trump’s “bold” statement on Taiwan was rooted in a realistic view of China, and was consistent with what the U.S. president-elect had previously stated.

Sangay said, “If you really want to understand China, you have to know the Tibetan narrative. What happened to Tibet is vital to understanding what China is capable of. So the fact that he is indicating some realistic views about China, in that sense, it is a positive indication.”

Dalai Lama denies espousing violence and says he only wants genuine autonomy for his Himalayan homeland, but Beijing denounces him as a dangerous separatist who wants an independent Tibet. After established the Central Tibetan Administration in the northern hill town of Dharamsala and failed uprising against Chinese rule, the Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959.

Sangay said he hopes India, Japan, and the United States press for a settlement, and would lead an effort to call out China for its repressive policies in Tibet. “We just think there has to be coordinated process from all like-minded countries on the issue of Tibet, and then press China to resolve the issues peacefully through dialogue.”

The Dalai Lama is scheduled to meet President Trump next year, when he travels to the United States. China expressed dissatisfaction on Friday, over Indian President Pranab Mukherjee’s meeting with the Dalai Lama this month.

Foreign Ministry spokesman, Geng Shuang, told a daily news briefing in the Chinese capital, that the Indian government had ignored China’s “strong opposition and insisted” on arranging for the Dalai Lama to share the stage with Mukherjee.

According to Sangay, the public meeting between the Dalai Lama and the Indian president sent a powerful message to Beijing and the rest of the world. There’s no question that President Trump’s meeting will do the same. 

Tibet or China — who do you think we should side with?

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