Oct 07, 2009

Tibet: Critics Protest Gap in Dalai Lama’s Schedule

Active ImageRepublican lawmakers, commentators and some Tibetan leaders have protested about the lack of a meeting between the Dalai Lama and the president of the United States. They say the Obama administration is snubbing him to appease China.



Below is an article published by New York Times:


But one appointment not on the calendar of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan spiritual leader, is a meeting with the president of the United States — a gap that has drawn protests from Republican lawmakers, commentators and some Tibetan leaders, who say the Obama administration is snubbing him to appease China.

In June, the White House informed the Dalai Lama that President Obama was committed to meeting him, but not until after he visits Beijing in November, a senior administration official said.
Greeting the Dalai Lama, whom Beijing condemns as a separatist, weeks before Mr. Obama’s first presidential trip to China could be “substantially damaging to the relationship,” said this official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the delicate nature of the issue.
Some White House officials even worried that the Chinese might withdraw the invitation to Mr. Obama, the official said, though Beijing had not issued any direct or veiled threats that it would do so.

“We want to have a good U.S.-China relationship, not just for its own sake, but because if we don’t, we won’t be able to help Tibet,” the senior official said. “If the Tibet relationship is seen as an irritant to the U.S.-China relationship, then that will cripple our ability to be of help.”
Every president since George H. W. Bush in 1991 has met the Dalai Lama when he came to Washington, usually in private encounters at the White House. In 2007, George W. Bush became the first president to welcome him publicly, bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal on him at the Capitol. Mr. Obama met the Dalai Lama as a senator.

The Tibetan leader’s representative in the United States, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, said the Dalai Lama accepted Mr. Obama’s explanation and looked forward to meeting him before the end of the year.
“We feel this was the right decision, and we know President Obama is very serious about this issue,” he said. “They are also aware of the concerns people have, and they are dealing with the Chinese, obviously.”

Despite the supportive words, the Dalai Lama’s aides were deeply frustrated by Mr. Obama’s decision, American officials said. At a time of rising Chinese influence, they worry that it could be used as a pretext by leaders of other countries to refuse to see the Dalai Lama.

The prime minister of Tibet’s government in exile, Samdhong Rinpoche, said in September: “A lot of nations are adopting a policy of appeasement. Even the U.S. government is doing some kind of appeasement. Today, economic interests are much greater than other interests.”

Mr. Obama sought to reassure the Dalai Lama by sending Valerie Jarrett, a senior adviser and close friend, to visit him in Dharamsala, in northern India, last month. She was accompanied by Maria Otero, an under secretary of state for global affairs who is the special coordinator for Tibetan issues. On Monday, the State Department said the Dalai Lama met with Ms. Otero at a hotel in Washington.

Mr. Obama conveyed his “respect” for the Dalai Lama to China’s president, Hu Jintao, during their first meeting at an economic summit in London in April, a senior official said. But the Chinese leader reiterated Beijing’s position that no foreign officials should meet with him.

The Obama administration has worked hard to avoid the bumpy start that many recent presidents have had with China. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton played down Tibet and other human rights issues in her visit to Beijing in February, while the Treasury secretary, Timothy F. Geithner, has been careful not to repeat the written testimony during his confirmation hearings, in which he accused China of manipulating its currency.

Critics say the administration is betraying the Buddhist monks who are jailed in China for fighting for democracy in Tibet. “I can almost hear the words of the Chinese guards saying to them that nobody cares about you in the United States,” Representative Frank R. Wolf, a Virginia Republican, said at a recent hearing.