While Democrats have loudly decried US President Donald Trump’s 2018 budget proposal with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi calling it “shameful,” “immoral” and “indecent,” exiled Tibetans also aren’t big fans.
Trump’s budget proposal slashes State Department funding by 28%, causing the department to make some “tough choices,” including ending a decade-old policy that provided millions of dollars in aid to exiled Tibetans.
Signed into law by George W. Bush, the Tibetan Policy Act of 2002 provided funds for “supporting the aspirations of the Tibetan people to safeguard their distinct identity” and “promoting substantive dialogue between the Government of the People’s Republic of China and the Dalai Lama or his representatives.”
In this effort, the act provided US government assistance for NGOs working in Tibetan communities, Voice of America and Radio Free Asia Tibetan-language broadcasting in Tibet and scholarship programs for Tibetans living outside of Tibet which have helped hundreds of students over the years.
The Tibetan Journal calls the aid from the US “one of the pivotal forces of financial support for the Central Tibetan Administration in exile,” pointing out how just two years ago the United States Agency for International Development awarded a grant of $23 million over five years to “strengthen self-reliance and resilience of Tibetan communities in South Asia.”
While at the moment it’s only a proposal, the possibility of bringing that number down to zero has created worry in the exiled Tibetan community. One Tibetan told the Times of India that Trump may be cutting the funding in order to improve relations with China, not realizing what kind of damage it could do to the hope that the Tibetan community has placed in the United States.
“The move is contrary to American ideals of freedom, equality, and justice. Time will tell if Trump’s policy is really in line with his ‘Make America Great Again’,” he said.
Meanwhile, the move is likely to be met with opposition from members of Congress led by Pelosi who met with the Dalai Lama in Dharamshala during a trip earlier this month. A spokesman for Pelosi told PTI:
Leader Pelosi is very concerned about the zeroing out of aid to the Tibetan community in the Trump budget proposal. As she has said many times, including during her visit this month to His Holiness The Dalai Lama in Dharamshala, if the US does not speak out for human rights in China, we lose all moral authority to talk about it elsewhere in the world.
That includes critical funding through the State Department for important efforts, like those in support of a genuinely autonomous Tibet, that advance and protect America’s interests in the world.
The move comes as efforts are underway to schedule and organize the first meeting between the Dalai Lama and Trump later this year. Last November, His Holiness said that he had “no worries” about Trump’s election, and looked forward to meeting with him following his inauguration.
That meeting has yet to happen as Trump appears caught up in a budding bromance with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Perhaps, the new US president also remembers the Dalai Lama’s spot-on impression of him.
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