Date: October 15, 2020
Washington, DC – The United States Commission on International Religious Freedom (USCIRF) welcomed today the appointment of Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor Robert A. Destro to serve concurrently as the U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. This position is mandated by the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 but had been vacant since January 20, 2017.
“The U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues is a crucial position for countering the Chinese Communist Party’s attempt to erase the unique identity of Tibetan Buddhism,” noted USCIRF Commissioner Gary Bauer. “USCIRF welcomes the strong choice of Assistant Secretary Robert A. Destro to fulfill this role, and we look forward to working with him.”
USCIRF has consistently recommended that the Trump administration fill the role of Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. In its 2020 Annual Report, USCIRF also called upon the administration to use its authority under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act and the International Religious Freedom Act to impose targeted sanctions on Chinese officials responsible for severe religious freedom violations, especially Chen Quanguo, the current Communist Party Secretary of Xinjiang and former Secretary of Tibet. USCIRF has also called for the release of Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the 11th Panchen Lama and one of USCIRF’s Religious Prisoners of Conscience.
“Chinese authorities are launching a full-scale assault against ethnic communities in their indigenous lands across the country,” Commissioner Nury Turkel added. “The Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues must put the weight and resources of the U.S. government behind efforts to work for the full realization of religious freedom for all Tibetans.”
In February 2020, USCIRF released a factsheet explaining how the Chinese government’s new Regulation for Religious Groups could further restrict religious freedom. This factsheet has been crucial to raising the profile of religious freedom issues in Tibet and mobilizing government resources to address these issues.