Feb 06, 2015

Tibet: First Public Meeting between Dalai Lama and US President Obama

On 5 February 2015 the Dalai Lama attended a high-level meeting with the US President in Washington D.C., United States of America. This first public encounter between the two Nobel peace laureates might provoke tensions between Washington and Beijing, as China considers His Holiness as a separatist aiming for the secession of Tibet.


Below is an article published by the Sydney Morning Herald:

United States President Barack Obama has hailed the Dalai Lama as a "good friend" during a symbolic first public encounter between the two men that is sure to enrage Beijing.

Speaking at a high-profile Washington prayer breakfast, Mr Obama heaped praise on his fellow Nobel peace laureate, who is reviled by China as a separatist.

"I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend," said Mr Obama, describing the Dalai Lama as "a powerful example of what it means to practise compassion".

He "inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings", Mr Obama said before an audience of about 3000 people.

It is the first time the two men have been seen together in public. Three previous encounters have been held behind closed doors - and outside the Oval Office - to avoid harming relations with China.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of seeking to split Tibet from the rest of China and calls him a "wolf in sheep's clothing". It vigorously lobbies against foreign leaders meeting the Dalai Lama.

But during Thursday's prayer breakfast Mr Obama and the Dalai Lama saluted each other across a plush ballroom.

Wearing his familiar saffron and maroon robes, the Dalai Lama was not seated at the head table with Mr Obama and other speakers, but was close to the dais. The Buddhist leader put his hands together, bowed and made a peace sign with his fingers as he was acknowledged by hosts. Mr Obama placed his hands together in response.

Even before the encounter China had decried interference in its domestic affairs.

"We hope that the American side will act upon its commitment on Tibet-related issues and properly deal with relevant issues in keeping with the overall interests of bilateral relations," a foreign ministry spokesman said.

The government-published China Daily newspaper said: "Should a President of the United States meet with the Dalai Lama, it will unquestionably step on China's toes and therefore cast a shadow over US-China relations ... Obama is acquiescing to the Dalai Lama's attempt to split Tibet from China."

The Dalai Lama has lived in exile in India since 1959 after a failed uprising in Tibet.


Photo courtesy of Reuters