Terry Branstad visited the iconic sites of Tibetan Buddhism, raising concerns about the religious freedom of local Buddhists.
Beijing (AsiaNews/RFA) – As part of a rare visit to Tibet, the US ambassador to China urged Chinese authorities to open a "substantive dialogue" with the Dalai Lama and guarantee the Himalayan region’s Buddhists freedom to practise their religion.
Ambassador Terry Branstad was posted to Beijing in 2017. He visited the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Qinghai Province between 19 and 25 May, the US State Department said in a note.
During his stay, Branstad met with Buddhist religious leaders and visited the iconic sites of Tibetan Buddhism.
“The Ambassador raised our long-standing concerns about lack of consistent access to the Tibetan Autonomous Region,” the State Department note said.
“He also expressed concerns regarding the Chinese government’s interference in Tibetan Buddhists’ freedom to organize and practice their religion,” it added.
Ambassador Branstad “encouraged the Chinese government to engage in substantive dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions, to seek a settlement that resolves differences”.
Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, fled Lhasa in 1959, during the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, finding refuge in India.
Although he tried many times to engage Beijing in dialogue, to safeguard Tibetan religion and culture from cultural genocide, the Communist Party has always branded him a "dangerous separatist" who wants Tibet's independence.
Hoping to return to Tibet, he gave up his political role in 2011 to remain the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism. But for the Chinese Communist Party he continues to be a "wolf in sheep's clothing".