China has rejected the United States’s appointment of a special coordinator for Tibetan issues, saying the move could “destabilise” Tibet and infringes on Chinese internal affairs.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo on Wednesday announced that State Department official Robert Destro would assume the additional post, which has been vacant since the start of President Donald Trump’s term in 2017.
The move comes amid heightened tensions between Beijing and Washington, which has routinely criticised the Chinese government’s human rights record, especially on the treatment of ethnic minorities in Xinjiang and Tibet.
China has routinely refused to deal with the US coordinator for Tibet, seeing it as an infringement on its internal affairs.
“Tibet affairs are China’s internal affairs that allow no foreign interference,” said Zhao Lijian, a spokesman at the Chinese foreign ministry.
“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 at a regular media briefing.
China seized control of Tibet in 1950 in what it describes as a “peaceful liberation” that helped the remote Himalayan region throw off its “feudalist” past.
“People of all ethnic groups in Tibet are part of the big family of the Chinese nation, and since its peaceful liberation, Tibet has had prosperous economic growth,” Zhao said.
But critics, led by exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, say Beijing’s rule amounts to “cultural genocide”.
Pompeo told reporters on Wednesday that in his new role, Destro would “focus on advancing dialogue” between the Chinese government and the Dalai Lama.
Destro would also work to protect the religious, cultural and linguistic identity of Tibetans and to improve their human rights, Pompeo said.