American Point Person on Tibet is Announced and the Work Begins

Special Coordinator for Tibet Maria Otero

On October 1, 2009, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced her appointment of Under Secretary Maria Otero to the post of the US Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues.

So, with her appointment, the Obama Administration has now all its officials in place who would be involved in formulating and implementing its Tibet policies. Appointment of such a senior official to the post is an indication that President Obama and Secretary Clinton intends to give serious attention to the Tibetan issue.  The theme of “change” that President Obama has brought to his new Administration will be tested in the months to come.

The first indicator will be the sort of message President Obama conveys to Chinese President Hu Jintao on Tibet when they meet in Beijing in November.  More importantly, what will the Administration do to the reaction it gets from the Chinese officials on Tibet? Special Coordinator Otero must certainly be seized of this challenge as she starts her formal role.  The American public will surely be watching, not to speak of the Tibetan people.

But there is hope. I have been joking that President Obama’s name sounds similar to the Tibetan name for the Buddha Amitabha, which is Opakme. That is a good sign because Amitabha is considered a principal figure in the Chinese Buddhist pantheon, specifically in the Dhakpay Shingkham or Pure Land tradition. I hope the President shares the wisdom of the Buddha of Infinite Light and enable the Chinese leaders to see clear light.

Seriously, I hope the Chinese leadership also realizes that this is an opportunity for them to embrace the “change” theme. They need to change their outlook on Tibet and adopt a positive approach that complements the new image of a new China that they are trying to project to the world.

It was interesting to see the State Department’s announcement of the Special Coordinator for Tibet on October 1, the National Day of China. Was there a message there?  In any case, I was watching on TV the parade that took place in Beijing to celebrate the 60th anniversary of the Day. Is it just my perception or did all the top leaders who were watching the parade at the Tiananmen Square in Beijing really look gloomy?  Somehow the celebratory atmosphere was missing.

I tried to look for Tibetan presence. There was Ragdi (or Raidi) sitting all by himself (from the TV angle of course) in a Chuba ornamented with animal skin. There were Phakpalha Gelek Namgyal and Lekchok, officials from the Tibet Autonomous Region, in suits and sitting around the same table.  They both looked gloomy.

Among the performers were Tibetan drummers and dancers. Among the singers was the recognizable face of Tseten Dolma, who has made a lucrative career out of singing “patriotic” songs supporting the Communist Party and the Chinese Government’s policies. It seems that Tseten Dolma is the highest paid person in the TAR. She sang a Chinese song and so I was not able to understand the lyrics.


2 thoughts on “American Point Person on Tibet is Announced and the Work Begins

  1. I think it will be helpful if you can write something about what exactly the Special Coordinator does. And since there has been about two other special coordinators before her, may be you can educate the people what are some of the works done by them that has helped or benefitted the Tibetans.

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