In 2002, the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader, reestablished contact for the first time in twenty years. The two sides began a series of discussions, the fifth and most recent in February 2006 in China. The United States has urged China's government, at the highest levels, to continue these discussions and to meet directly with the Dalai Lama.
Paula J. Dobriansky is Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs and Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues. She told the U.S. House of Representatives' Foreign Affairs Committee that while the United States was initially "greatly encouraged by the promise of these discussions," they have not produced the type of substantive results that the U.S. had hoped for. Meanwhile, she said, the Chinese government "has ramped up negative rhetoric" against the Dalai Lama, and Chinese authorities continue to abuse human rights in Tibet:
"There are over one hundred Tibetan political prisoners in jail for expressing their peaceful views. Gedhun Choekyi Nyima, the boy recognized by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama, remains incommunicado. And the completion of the railroad linking Lhasa to mainland China is increasing Han migration and having a harmful impact on Tibet's fragile environment. Most recently, the People's Armed Police opened fire at a group of Tibetans near the border of Nepal, killing a seventeen-year-old nun and capturing at least three dozen others. The Chinese official media asserted that the People's Armed Police shot in self-defense, but a Romanian film crew who happened to be in the area has proof to the contrary."
Ms. Dobrianksy said that President George W. Bush expressed his strong support for the Tibetan people and their religious freedom during his meeting with the Dalai Lama in November 2005. In meetings with Chinese President Hu Jintao and Premier Wen Jiabao, President Bush highlighted the importance of human rights and religious freedom and urged China to engage in direct dialogue with the Dalai Lama.
The United States considers Tibet to be part of the territory of the People's Republic of China. At the same time, said Under Secretary of State Dobriansky, the U.S. would like to see China act as "a responsible stakeholder in the global system. Beijing," she said, "may find that a more enlightened policy toward Tibet would be an important step toward enhancing and complimenting the respect it has earned from economic transformation."