President Trump’s proposed 2018 budget would zero out funding critical to advancing freedom in Tibet. Proposed budget cuts would eliminate all USAID programming for Tibet and funding for the Ngawang Choephel Fellows program, which finances educational and cultural exchanges for Tibetan refugees. What might happen with efforts to protect Tibetan refugees in South Asia is unclear.
The State Department said that many “tough choices” were made during budget negotiations. Economic development programs in Tibet will take the most significant hit. In addition to the cuts outlined above, there is a question as to how much funding—if any—will be allocated for the Tibet Fund. Nor does the budget proposal outline how cuts to the National Endowment for Democracy (NED) will impact programs toward Tibet.
Defunding efforts to empower Tibetans sends the signal that the U.S. no longer cares about advancing liberty in places like Tibet and Xinjiang where China today uses human rights abuse to maintain control over these territories.
Just last year, the Chinese government began demolishing one of the world’s largest Tibetan Buddhist academies, the Larung Gar, reducing the population of monks and nuns from 12,000 to less than 5,000 after its partial destruction in 2016. Additionally, at least 150 Tibetans have self-immolated since February 2009.
At a recent event at The Heritage Foundation, Dr. Lobsang Sangay, president of the Central Tibetan Administration, reaffirmed Tibet’s commitment to the “Middle Way” approach. This policy approach seeks freedom for Tibetans within the framework of the Chinese constitution.
“The Middle Way approach” explained Sangay, “is in the middle of seeking separation or independence from China but at the same time ending the present repressive policies of the Chinese government.”
It is a peaceful initiative, one that embraces dialogue with the Chinese government. The last two U.S. administrations affirmed that policy, but it remains to be seen whether it will be supported by the Trump administration which has said little to nothing on Tibet.
This piece originally appeared in Forbes: https://www.forbes.com/sites/oliviaenos/2017/06/09/president-trump-dont-forget-about-tibet/#50f40bac7f9a