Messages from U.S. Ambassadors

On Thursday, April 7, 2011, in US Government, by Todd Stein

The American ambassadors to the world’s two largest countries recently made comments that are of interest to the Tibet issue. I thought they were worth sharing.

Tim Roemer and the Dalai Lama

His Holiness the Dalai Lama greeting US Ambassador Tim Roemer and his wife Mary Kaye Cooper in Dharamsala in February 2011.

First, Tim Roemer, U.S. Ambassador to India, traveled to Dharamsala on February 23-24. He inaugurated the new Tibetan Refugee Reception Center there, which was build with support from the State Department’s refugees bureau. Here is ICT’s coverage of it. Ambassador Roemer also met with His Holiness Dalai Lama (they had previously met in New Delhi). Ambassador Roemer’s comments on his blog were:

He is a Nobel Prize winner. He is a recipient of the distinguished Gold Medal award by the U.S. Congress. Some identify him as a living Buddha, a “god-king,” or a world hero. In my meeting with his Holiness, the Dalai Lama, what strikes you about this man is his humility, his grace, and his easy-going nature. He has an infectious laugh, and a wonderful sense of humor. He communicates by contact – direct eye contact and warm and lengthy handshakes. We met for 60 minutes and discussed several world issues, ecological concerns, and spiritual insights. I am constantly inspired by his words: “My children, the more I look at you, the happier I feel. You represent the hope for a better tomorrow, and you will manage to overcome the difficulties ahead. You are at the threshold of existence; you should become stronger each day…”

The Embassy also posted pictures of the Ambassador meeting with Tibetan refugees at the reception center and students at the Transit School (which provides vocational education to new arrivals in the 18-25 age range), which can be viewed here.

Second, Jon Hunstsman, the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to China, gave a farewell speech in Shanghai, which was portrayed in the press as uncharacteristically critical of China’s human rights record. I write uncharacteristic in that ambassadors tend to shy away from confrontation in big picture speeches about the overall bilateral relationship. However, Hunstman is viewed as having developed a good track record of advocacy on rights cases during his tenure. And the time for criticism is ripe, considering the latest crackdown by Chinese authorities on writers, artists and bloggers.

Huntsman is stepping down from his post to return to the United States, where he is considering a run for President in 2012 against the man who appointed him Ambassador.

In his pointed comments on human rights, Ambassador Huntsman said:

It should come as no surprise, for example, that the United States will continue to champion respect for universal human rights, which is a fundamental extension of the American experience and a bedrock of our world view.

Long after I depart Beijing, future Ambassadors will continue to visit American citizens like Dr. Feng Xue, who was wrongfully convicted of stealing state secrets and is now serving an eight-year sentence in prison far from his family in the United States. They will continue to speak up in defense of social activists, like Liu Xiaobo, Chen Guangcheng and now Ai Weiwei, who challenge the Chinese government to serve the public in all cases and at all times.

He took head-on the Chinese effort to move human rights off the bilateral agenda by saying:

Avoiding direct engagement on sensitive issues will only undermine the respective interests of both of our countries. We cannot move forward if, when differences emerge, only one of us is fully committed and fully engaged.

Ambassador Hunstman did mention Tibet once, although it was a mixed bag. He commented on his visit to Yushu (Kyegu) to survey the damage from the April 2010 earthquake. While it is positive that he took the initiative to visit the disaster site on the Tibetan plateau and to speak out about it, it is unfortunate that he referred to “Chinese lives” being saved. The vast majority of victims were Tibetan, not Chinese, as the prefecture is 97 percent Tibetan.

I know from visiting the Yushu earthquake site on the Tibetan Plateau last year that U.S. humanitarian assistance has saved Chinese lives. When we travelled there we walked the streets of what had once been a thriving community, stood next to the ruins of a Buddhist monastery and listened as one man after another told us how his village had been destroyed and his culture threatened by the devastating earthquake. I also saw families eating food provided by American relief workers and children using school supplies donated by the U.S. Embassy.

More images of Ambassador Roemer’s visit to the new reception center can be seen here.

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2 Responses to “Messages from U.S. Ambassadors”

  1. Margaret Loyon says:

    I was delighted to read about Ambassador Roemer’s remarks after meeting with HH. Heart-warming indeed, and this makes me feel happy for him and his wife.

    With respect to parting Ambassador Huntsman’s remarks, I nearly agree with the previous post from Travis Broes.

    The US is rapidly loosing it’s moral leverage when it comes to human rights. Just look at the Bradley Manning situation. Holding a whistle-blower in a US military prison without trial under very cruel circumstances and not allowing unmonitored official visits is a blatant abuse of power.

  2. Travis Broes says:

    I understand that you are fighting for your people & the terrible treatment they bear.However the US are not going to stand over china to save your people.
    The United States have stood all over human rights & are one of the worst offenders.Who are they to preach human rights. They want to control the world & while ever they percist there will be mass devastation. The saying ” The enemy of my enemy is my friend” is a one sided view ignoring the probability of them being a hidden enemy.
    You do not get saved from the wolves by a bear unless you are really lucky or you are related to the bear. This bear has no loyalties. The US is collapsing & the EU will regain some dominance. If Al Capone or Edi Ahmin or Hitler gave a small percentage of their blood money to charity does that make them a christ like beings, a caring person or a callous ,sneaking,murdering conn artist ?

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