China sees red after US appoints top official for Tibetan issues

China on Thursday accused the US of trying to destabilise Tibet hours after Washington appointed a senior official to oversee Tibetan affairs as it mounts pressure on Beijing on human rights issues.

The US secretary of state Michael Pompeo on Wednesday named Robert Destro as the new special coordinator for Tibetan issues.

The US remains concerned with China’s “repression of the Tibetan community, including the lack of meaningful autonomy, the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas, and severe restrictions on Tibetans’ religious freedom and cultural traditions within China,” Pompeo said in statement.

Reacting sharply, Chinese foreign ministry said Beijing will not allow foreign interference in its internal affairs.

“Setting up of the so-called special coordinator for Tibetan issues is entirely out of political manipulation to interfere in China’s internal affairs and destabilise Tibet,” said ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian.

“China firmly opposes this (the interference) and has never recognised this,” Zhao said at the regular ministry briefing when asked to comment on the appointment.

“People of ethnic groups in Tibet are part of the big family of Chinese nation. Since its peaceful liberation, Tibet enjoyed prosperous economic growth, harmonious civil society, and prosperous culture. People enjoyed solidarity and mutual assistance and improved livelihood. All people in Tibet enjoy their full religious freedoms and their rights are fully respected and guaranteed. We believe Tibet’s future will be better,” Zhao added.

Zhao said the US should stop interfering in China’s internal affairs under the pretext of Tibet or destabilising it.

“China will take all necessary measures to uphold our interests,” he said.

Meanwhile in Lhasa, the capital of the Tibetan Autonomous Region (TAR), top officials defended their labour practices in the remote region in the backdrop of growing concerns about rights abuses.

According to a Bloomberg report from Lhasa, Tibet Governor Qi Zhala told a briefing on Thursday that forced labour transfer “does not exist,” maintaining that the local government was focused on “increasing the idle work force’s income through job-skills training.”

Qi, who was speaking about poverty-alleviation efforts, maintained that the Tibetan government had provided travel subsidies for people to work in other regions, and that they were free to come and go at will.

In September, a Reuters report had said that Beijing was pushing growing numbers of “Tibetan rural labourers off the land and into recently built military-style training centers where they are turned into factory workers, mirroring a program in the western Xinjiang region that rights groups have branded coercive labour”.

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