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China slams appointment of US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues

US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues Uzra Zeya (Photo: IANS)

Beijing has criticised the appointment of US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues saying Tibet-related matters are China's internal affairs.

The US had, on Monday, appointed Indian-origin diplomat Uzra Zeya as its Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. She has been entrusted with the task of promoting dialogue between China and the Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama.

In a statement, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said: "I have designated Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights Uzra Zeya to serve concurrently as the United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, an important role she will take on effective immediately".

According to the State Department, Zeya will work towards supporting the Tibetan people and advocacy groups to preserve their historical, linguistic, cultural and religious heritage.

In a video statement on Twitter, Zeya said that she will strive to work for meaningful autonomy for Tibetans. 

The State Department added: "Special Coordinator Zeya will work closely with Tibetan cultural, religious, and political leaders, the US Congress, international allies and partners, and civil society representatives on these matters".

The appointment has riled China.

On Tuesday, Chinese foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said China was "firmly opposed" to the move. He said: "Tibet affairs are purely China's internal affairs and brook no interference from any foreign forces".

In December 2020, the US Congress had passed a bill committing to the right of Tibetans to choose a successor to their spiritual leader. The Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020, also created a budget to support the Tibetan struggle against the Chinese occupation, provide scholarships to Tibetan students to study in the US and help NGOs further the cause of the Tibetan people.

Over the decades, China has suppressed the language, culture and religious freedom in Tibet. It has arrested Tibetan monks and cracked down on the followers of the Dalai Lama, who has been living in exile in India since 1959, after China invaded the Himalayan nation.