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China accuses US of trying to destabilize Tibet with appointment of human rights envoy

China accuses US of trying to destabilize Tibet with appointment of human rights envoy
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China tore into the U.S. for establishing a special coordinator for Tibetan issues, saying Washington was trying to destabilize the autonomous territory.

“Xizang's affairs are China's internal affairs that allow no foreign interference," Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said Wednesday, using the Chinese term for Tibet.

"The US appointment of so-called ‘special coordinator for Tibetan issues’ is a political manipulation to interfere in China's domestic affairs and undermine Xizang's development and stability. China firmly opposes it and has never acknowledged it," he added.

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Zhao warned of possible diplomatic retaliation, saying, “China will take all necessary measures to safeguard our interests.”

The rebuke comes after Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoHillicon Valley: Treasury sanctions Russian group accused of targeting critical facilities | Appeals court rules Uber, Lyft must comply with labor laws | Biden: Countries that target US elections will 'pay a price' Treasury sanctions Russian group accused of targeting US critical facilities with destructive malware Trump announces opening of relations between Sudan and Israel MORE announced Wednesday he was appointing a special coordinator to oversee relations with Tibet, filling the role for the first time in the Trump administration amid heightening tensions with Beijing.

Robert Destro, who serves as assistant secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, will concurrently work as the U.S. special coordinator for Tibetan issues, the State Department announced. Destro is the sixth person to serve as a special coordinator for Tibetan issues, going back to 1997.

China still claims sovereignty over Tibet, which it seized in 1950. U.S. ties with the territory have been kept at arm’s length and the U.S. still formally recognizes the territory as falling under Beijing’s control.

Critics point to reports showing repression of Tibetans’ cultural and religious history under Chinese rule. Pompeo said Wednesday that the U.S. “remains concerned with the [People's Republic of China’s] repression of the Tibetan community, including the lack of meaningful autonomy, the deteriorating human rights situation in Tibetan areas, and severe restrictions on Tibetans’ religious freedom and cultural traditions within China.” 

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Zhao dismissed concerns over China’s rule, maintaining that “All residents, including Zang ethnic minorities, enjoy full religious freedom with their rights fully respected and protected. We believe Xizang's future will be even brighter.”

The diplomatic appointment was the latest rebuke of China over Tibet. In July, Pompeo said the U.S. would restrict visas for certain Chinese officials over blocking diplomatic access to the territory and involvement in "human rights abuses."

The back-and-forth comes amid fierce tensions between Washington and Beijing on an array of other issues, including U.S. relations with Taiwan, another autonomous territory over which China claims sovereignty, human rights violations in Hong Kong and against Uighurs and other Muslim minority groups, as well as election meddling from Beijing. The two countries also have a notoriously rancorous trade relationship.