By Tenzin Dharpo
U.S. Ambassador to China Terry Branstad and his wife, Christine in front of the Potala palace in Lhasa, Tibet. Photo- AP
DHARAMSHALA, May 27: The United States Ambassador to China has urged Beijing to engage with “substantive dialogue” with the exiled leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama without “preconditions”, after his rare visit to Tibet last week.
A spokesperson from the US embassy in Beijing said Saturday that Ambassador Terry Branstad “encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, to seek a settlement that resolves differences.”
Branstad also “expressed concerns regarding the Chinese government’s interference in Tibetan Buddhists’ freedom to organize and practice their religion,” in addition to raising long-standing worries about the lack of consistent access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region, or TAR, a statement from the embassy said.
Lack of religious freedom and persecution of Buddhists in occupied Tibet by the communist government is a reoccurring subject, especially in the last few years.
During the week long visit from May 19 until May 25, the US Ambassador visited important religious and cultural sites, including the Potala Palace, Jokhang Temple, Norbulingka and Sera Monastery in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa and met with senior Tibetan religious and cultural leaders, the embassy said.
The US envoy also visited the neighbouring Qinghai province known as Amdo in Tibetan where the birthplace of the Dalai Lama, Takster is located.
The rare visit by the US Ambassador comes a week after 32 US members of congress urged President Trump to implement key legislations including the Tibet Policy Act of 2002 that urges the president of the United States to encourage dialogue between Beijing and representatives of His Holiness the Dalai Lama to resolve the Tibetan issue and the 2018 Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act, that calls for ban on access for Chinese government officials responsible for restricting access for US journalists, diplomats, tourists, and citizens, including Tibetan Americans to Tibet.
Ambassador Branstad’s visit to occupied Tibet was the first by an American envoy in four years.