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Tibet Policy Has Administration Cau

   October 21, 1997
    Tibet Policy Has Administration Caught Between China and Congress

 Related Articles China Discusses Possibility of Releasing Prominent 
Dissident Albright to Name Special Aide on U.S. Policy Toward Tibet (July 


 WASHINGTON -- With only a week to go before the visit of China's president 
to the United States, the Clinton administration finds itself in a 
diplomatic predicament of its own making over its pledge to appoint a 
"special coordinator" to oversee American policy toward Tibet.

 The appointment is bringing protests from Beijing, which regards the 
planned office as interference with its internal affairs, while members of 
Congress are accusing the State Department of dithering. The administration, 
caught in the middle, is scrambling to avoid a confrontation just as 
President Jiang Zemin arrives for a weeklong tour of America, starting on 

 "The question is: Is there a way to deal with this appointment without 
poisoning the overall atmosphere of the summit?" asked Jonathan D. Pollack, 
a senior adviser at the Rand Corporation.

 Under pressure from Democrats and Republicans in Congress, Secretary of 
State Madeleine K. Albright announced three months ago that she would create 
the office to raise the profile of Tibet in the making of foreign policy. 
The problem, diplomatically, is that she pledged to do so by Nov. 1, the 
final day of Jiang's visit, which both sides intend to be a culmination of 
months of efforts to improve relations.

 With the visit and deadline approaching, the State Department has yet to 
announce an appointment, though Albright's spokesman, James P. Rubin, said 
she would make it as promised.

 But other officials in the department and at the White House have strongly 
suggested -- in interviews and in discussions with members of Congress -- 
that the appointment will be put off until after Jiang's visit or at least 
after the Washington part of it ends on Oct. 30.

 While the administration has sought to engage China's Communist government 
on a variety of fronts, a vocal faction in Congress has accused it of 
putting pragmatic concerns like trade over issues of principle involving 
human rights and religious freedom.

 Tibet, which has sought a greater degree of autonomy from China since 
Chinese troops violently established Communist rule over the region 
beginning in 1950, has long been a sensitive subject for the Chinese. The 
debate over creation of the position comes as awareness of Tibet's cause has 
mushroomed here, in part through popular depictions in Hollywood.

 An appointment on the eve of the visit, the administration officials said, 
would almost certainly be seen by the Chinese as an affront to Jiang. And 
that could upset the progress the administration hopes to make on a variety 
of matters, including a pledge by China to stop selling missiles and nuclear 
technology to countries like Iran.

 "It definitely is not very good for the atmosphere," an administration 
official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

 The Chinese have objected to the creation of the coordinator's office. 
Senior officials from Beijing have repeatedly raised the matter in the 
flurry of preparatory meetings leading up to Jiang's visit -- most recently 
during one between Albright and Foreign Minister Qian Qichen in New York 
City late last month.

 "Our position is very clear," said Yu Shu Ning, a counselor at China's 
Embassy in Washington. "We are opposed to any interference in China's 
internal affairs."

 The administration's failure to fill the job by now is already drawing 
criticism from Tibet's supporters in Congress, who say Beijing is brutally 
repressing Tibet's unique culture, language and religion. Sen. Jesse Helms, 
R-N.C., sent a letter to Albright two weeks ago pointedly, if politely, 
recalling the deadline and urging the appointment of "someone of stature who 
will command respect." Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, D-N.Y., sent his own 
letter last Friday.

 Rep. Nancy Pelosi, a D-Calif. who is one of the most outspoken critics of 
China in Congress, said the administration risked losing a perfect 
opportunity to highlight Tibetan issues in a way the Chinese could not 

 "I think if the administration is serious about the Tibet coordinator," she 
said, "that person would be appointed before the Jiang Zemin visit so that 
he or she could be present at the table."

 The United States does not regard Tibet as an independent country, nor does 
it support its independence from China. But it has long been supportive of 
Tibet's spiritual leader, the dalai lama, who was awarded the Nobel Peace 
Prize in 1989 for peacefully advocating more autonomy for his homeland.

 In addition to coordinating policy toward Tibet, which now falls between 
the separate bureaus in the State Department that oversee China and human 
rights, the new office is supposed to promote talks between the dalai lama's 
representatives and the government in Beijing. Albright promised that the 
coordinator, while not an ambassador with diplomatic credentials, would 
travel to the region.

 Rubin, Albright's spokesman, said Monday that there were "intensive 
discussions" under way to select the coordinator by Nov. 1. And he played 
down any connection between the appointment and the visit.

 "The purpose of the special coordinator is to promote our interest in the 
human rights of the people of Tibet and a dialogue with the authorities in 
Beijing," he said.

 Jiang is likely to be dogged by protests throughout his trip, which 
includes stops in Williamsburg, Va., Philadelphia, New York City and Los 
Angeles, as well as a speech at Harvard and the official visit in Washington 
on Oct. 29. On the night of Jiang's state dinner, for instance, the 
International Campaign for Tibet plans to have a protest dinner.

 The campaign's director, John Ackerly, said President Clinton and Albright 
should not simply paper over differences with China. "They will leave 
themselves vulnerable," he said, "if they try to push aside too many of the 
controversial issues."


 Other Places of Interest on The Web Tibet Issues from the Chinese Embassy 
in Washington, D.C.. Issues & Events Briefings, from the Chinese Embassy, 
Washington, D.C. U.S. State Department China Home Page.

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