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Under Secretary Zeya’s Remarks at "Human Rights Implications of the Dalai Lama’s Succession"
A Side Event of the 51st Session of the Human Rights Council
October 6, 2022

Under Secretary for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, Uzra Zeya’s Remarks at “Human Rights Implications of the Dalai Lama’s Succession”

A Side Event of the 51st Session of the Human Rights Council on the occasion of the launch of the report by the International Tibet Network: “Tibet, the Dalai Lama, and the Geopolitics of Reincarnation.”

As Prepared
Geneva, Switzerland
October 4, 2022

Good afternoon and Tashi Delek. It is an honor to be here today. My name is Uzra Zeya, and I am the United States Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.

I would like to extend a warm welcome to our audience here in Geneva, as well as those tuning in on the virtual platform from around the world. I would also like to thank the United Kingdom’s Special Envoy for Freedom of Religion or Belief Fiona Bruce for giving remarks today; our moderator and panelists; our NGO partner, the International Tibet Network; and Canada, the United Kingdom, Lithuania, and Czechia for co-sponsoring this event with the United States.

My friends, we are gathered here today at a critical moment for Tibet and the survival of its distinct religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage. PRC authorities continue to wage a campaign of repression against the Tibetan community. There is perhaps no better issue that exemplifies the ramifications of these policies than the Dalai Lama’s succession. PRC authorities have made clear they have every intention of co-opting the succession process of Tibetan Buddhist lamas, including His Holiness. The PRC views this co-optation as critical to eroding international support for Tibet and completing its forcible “Sinicization” of the six million Tibetans in the PRC. PRC authorities have shown they are willing to act with cruelty when any succession process falls outside the bounds of their control. Twenty-seven years ago, the PRC abducted the 11th Panchen Lama, Gedhun Choekyi Nyima [Pron: Geh-dun Cho-kee Nee-ma], who at the time was six years old. The PRC then selected and promoted a state proxy who is not recognized by the Tibetan community.

As you will hear from our panelists and as detailed in the International Tibet Network’s research, PRC interference in Tibetan Buddhism

extends well beyond PRC borders and has global implications. In fact, PRC policies on the succession issue are part of broader efforts to reshape and undermine human rights globally, including through transnational repression and acts targeting the right to freedom of religion or belief.

The importance of this issue, its ramifications for the preservation of Tibet’s rich religious traditions, the dignity of the global Tibetan community, and the protection of the human rights and fundamental freedoms that we all hold dear, deserves the international community’s urgent attention.

The United States will continue to call out PRC authorities for their repression against the Tibetan community. What is occurring in Tibet cannot be separated from PRC abuses throughout the country, including the atrocities in Xinjiang and the undermining of protected rights and freedoms in Hong Kong. We will shine a light on this issue within our broader human rights concerns with the PRC, bilaterally and jointly with international partners in multilateral fora.

This is where international coalitions of likeminded governments, civil society, and other stakeholders can serve as a force multiplier for supporting the global Tibetan community. The United States will continue to prioritize advancing the collective strength and impact of our partners and allies in calling out the PRC government’s repression and urging a change in policies. We will explore all tools at our disposal to promote accountability for PRC officials who interfere in the Dalai Lama’s succession, and we will urge our likeminded partners to do the same. We call on the international community to reject any PRC attempts to install a state-selected proxy, and we will use every opportunity available with our partners and allies to discredit PRC interference in this process. Lastly, to address the long-standing grievances of the Tibetan community, we will continue to urge the PRC government to return to meaningful dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, without preconditions.

Friends, with such a dire set of circumstances, it can be easy to lose optimism for the future. Yet, I’m reminded of a powerful message from His Holiness, who said that “No matter what sort of difficulties, how painful the experience, if we lose our hope, that is the real disaster.”

What gives me hope is the resilience, the perseverance, and the faith of the Tibetan community, both inside Tibet and among the diaspora. Their resolve is an inspiration, and their hopes and aspirations for the future are something that the United States will always stand behind. Thank you.