By Lobsang Wangyal
McLEOD GANJ, India, 29 October 2019
US Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Samuel Brownback, on Monday called on Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama at his residence in McLeod Ganj in northern India.
Lobsang Sangay, the President of the Central Tibetan Administration, also attended the talks for more than an hour, which were held behind closed doors and the details of which were not made public.
The high-profile visit occurred with the backdrop of a US-China trade war inflicting an economic toll on both countries, and the Chinese government asserting its right to appoint the next Dalai Lama.
Ambassador Brownback said that he was in the capital of the Tibetan Diaspora to show the US support for the Tibetan people and their quest for freedom.
Explicitly speaking about the selection of the next Dalai Lama, Brownback said, “The role of picking a successor to the Dalai Lama belongs to the Tibetan Buddhist system, the Dalai Lama, and other Tibetan Buddhist leaders. It does not belong to anybody else, not any government or any entity.”
“We believe in religious freedom; the United States strongly supports religious freedom. We believe people all over the world deserve this right and they should be able to practice theirs peacefully and freely. Unfortunately, Tibetans aren’t allowed to practise their faith freely in Tibet and they have to get out to India and other places to practise their faith.”
China in the recent past has been increasingly churning its propaganda machine to claim the right to choose the next Dalai Lama, who is now 84. Tibetans have refuted the Chinese claim, and the Dalai Lama, countering the Chinese claims, has said that there’s no role for an athiest government in his succession. “China must first find reincarnation of Mao Zedong,” he quipped.
Brownback called on the Chinese government to release the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedun Choekyi Nyima, who went missing soon after he was recognised by the Dalai Lama in 1995, when he was six years old. The world hasn’t seen him since.
He also called on China to respect the Tibetan people’s right to practice their religious beliefs and culture, and to allow them to express their grievances freely.
The US delegation led by Brownback and his entourage consisting of officials from the US State Department and the US Embassy in Delhi, were then escorted by Sangay to attend the 60th anniversary of the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts.
Speaking in the newly-built auditorium, Sangay criticised the Chinese policies in Tibet that are leading Tibetans to take drastic actions such as self-immolation. He said that more than 150 Tibetans have set themselves on fire. “Their calls are denouncing the Chinese occupation of Tibet, the repressive policies of destroying the Tibetan culture and civilisation.”
He thanked the US government for its steadfast support for the Tibetan cause, and then hosted them a lunch at the venue.
The Dalai Lama will visit the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts on Tuesday to officially open the new auditorium.