The US has designated Indian-origin diplomat Uzra Zeya as its Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues and she has been tasked with promoting “substantive dialogue” between China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives, in support of a negotiated agreement on Tibet.
She will retain her current position as the Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said.
As the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, Zeya will coordinate the US government policies, programmes and projects concerning Tibetan issues, consistent with the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002, as amended by the Tibetan Policy and Support Act of 2020.
Zeya will promote respect for the human rights and fundamental freedoms of Tibetans, including their freedom of religion or belief, and will support efforts to preserve their distinct historical, linguistic, cultural and religious heritage, the US State Department said.
She will further support US efforts to address the humanitarian needs of Tibetan refugees and diaspora communities, including those in the US who have faced threats and intimidation instigated by China, it said, adding that the special coordinator will promote activities to protect the environment and sustainably manage the water and other natural resources of the Tibetan plateau.
Consistent with the Reciprocal Access to Tibet Act of 2018, she also will seek to increase access to Tibet for US officials, journalists and other citizens.
China has been accused of suppressing cultural and religious freedom in Tibet, however, it has rejected the accusations.
There have been no negotiations between China and the representatives of the Dalai Lama on the Tibet issue in recent years. Since becoming China’s President in 2013, Xi Jinping has pursued a firm policy of stepping up security control of Tibet.
Beijing has been cracking down on Buddhist monks and followers of the Dalai Lama, who despite his exile remains a widely admired spiritual leader in the remote Himalayan region.
Beijing views the 86-year-old Dalai Lama as a separatist. He has been living in India in-exile, following China’s takeover of the Himalayan region in 1959
Zeya, who was once posted in New Delhi during her diplomatic career, had quit the foreign service in 2018 in protest against the policies of then president Donald Trump.
In April, while introducing Zeya during her confirmation hearing for the position of Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Senator Tim Kaine said that Zeya has previously served five presidents, three Republicans and two Democrats, with distinction for 28 years as a foreign service officer on four continents.
Fluent in Arabic, French and Spanish, she was acting assistant secretary of human rights, democracy, and labour. In that post, she led UN-US human rights dialogue with China, Egypt, and Bahrain, among others, he said.
Zeya had told lawmakers that her grandfather was a freedom fighter in India.
She is a graduate of the Georgetown University School of Foreign Service.