Hillary Clinton on US-Tibet Policy

Hillary Clinton was not asked any questions about Tibet during her confirmation hearings earlier this month. This marked the first time in sixteen years that a nominee for Secretary of State was not verbally asked about Tibet in their hearings before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, an ominous sign for how the Committee is thinking about America’s relationship to Tibet and its impact on Sin0-American policy.

The Boston Globe has published the written questions posed by Senator John Kerry to Senator Clinton, as well as her responses (PDF link). Here is the question and answer on Tibet.

98. The government of China and the Dalai Lama of Tibet disagree on the issue of greater autonomy for the Tibetan Autonomous Region, which has been a stumbling block in their ongoing dialogue.  Meanwhile, many Tibetans have lost faith in the possibility of a negotiated compromise, while Chinese leaders have expressed a deep distrust of the Dalai Lama’s intentions and foreign contacts.  What options may be acceptable to both sides?  What kinds of international pressure, if any, would be helpful in promoting a resolution?

The Obama Administration will speak out for the human rights and religious freedom of the people of Tibet.  If Tibetans are to live in harmony with the rest of China’s people, their religion and culture must be respected and protected.  Tibet should enjoy genuine and meaningful autonomy.  The Dalai Lama should be invited to visit China, as part of a process leading to his return.  We will condemn the use of violence to put down peaceful protests, and call on the Chinese government to respect the basic human rights of the people of Tibet, and to account for the whereabouts of detained Buddhist monks.  We will also continue to press China on our concerns about human rights issues at every opportunity and at all levels, publicly and privately, both through our mission in China and in Washington.

This is a very solid statement, though it does not support Tibetan independence nor explicitly call for the end of China’s 50 year old military occupation. It would have been great to see an explicit call for the release of political prisoners or ending population transfer of Han Chinese into Tibet or Tibetan nomads into concrete villages.

That said, this is a written policy response and it is a jumping off point. It’s my hope that Senator Clinton and her staff at the State Department will push for President Obama to meet with the Dalai Lama in the Oval Office. That would be meaningful change that I could believe in.

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