|Sikyong Dr Lobsang Sangay with special coordinator for Tibetan issues, Robert Destro at the Harry S. Truman building in Washington DC. (@dr.lobsangsangay)|
The head of the Tibetan government-in-exile Lobsang Sangay met special coordinator for Tibetan issues, Robert Destro, on Thursday marking the first meeting between the president of the Central Tibetan Administration with that of the US state department.
Sangay shared a picture with Destro on Facebook. “Great honor to meet with the Special Coordinator on Tibetan Issues Robert A Destro. This is the first time in six decades, a Sikyong (President) of the Central Tibetan Administration (CTA) was formally invited inside the State Department,” Sangay said in the post.
Sangay also thanked US secretary of state Mike Pompeo for appointing Destro, who is also a human rights official. He said, “I want to thank the State Department for acknowledging the democratically elected leader of CTA and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for approving the visit. History is made today!”
The United States had on Thursday confirmed the appointment of Robert Destro as the special coordinator for Tibetan issues. The move is aimed to create pressure on China regarding the autonomy of Tibet and bring issues concerning human rights and forced labour in the region to the fore.
Following Destro’s appointment, Pompeo criticised the Chinese government in a statement, which was accessed by Bloomberg. “The United States 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,” Pompeo said.
China lashed out at the US and called the appointment as an attempt to interfere in China’s domestic affairs. Foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian alleged that the appointment is a case of political manipulation. “Tibet affairs are China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference. The setting up of the so-called coordinator for Tibetan issues is entirely out of political manipulation to interfere in China’s internal affairs and destabilise Tibet. China firmly opposes that,” Zhao said.
The appointment’s timing has angered China as it tries to stifle Hong Kong’s growing demands for larger autonomy and independence. Taiwan continues to claim that it is an independent nation and have never been part of China which has led to tensions between both nations.
Destro was also part of the committee along with Keith Krach, the undersecretary of state for economic growth, who visited Taiwan last month to sign new trade deals. The US is looking to boost its relations with Taiwan and Tibet to increase pressure on China.