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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

The Dalai Lama: Living with peace, harmony, and a several divisions of Chinese troops just across the border

October 31, 2007

National Post
October 30, 2007

There's no question the Dalai Lama is an admirable human being, though it's hard to read his philosophical musings without getting the feeling he's perpetually
channeling John Lennon singing "All You Need is Love."

He is in favour of harmony, unity, mutual respect and mutual awareness. He's against violence: he'd been in Ottawa barely a day Monday when he offered a little
lecture on how using violence to counter violence in places like Iraq and Afghanistan is self-defeating. He was chased out of Tibet by the Chinese in 1959 and has
spent the rest of his life in exile, hounded by various Chinese allegations, yet favours treating the Chinese with peace, love and brotherhood; all he asks in return is
some of the same.

What's not to like about this? He comes equipped with all the elements for great theatre: an exotic birth, a dramatic life, international appeal and a storyline that just
keeps going and going. He shares the saintliness of Mother Teresa, but smiles more and likes to tell jokes. He's as charismatic as the late John Paul II, but without
the hard line or the heavy security. And he's apparently great pals with Richard Gere.

Still, it all seems a bit forced, and more than a little hypocritical. Western leaders line up to shake his hand. George Bush awards him the Congressional Gold Medal.
The Nobel folks give him the Peace Prize. Canada makes him an honorary citizen. Paul Martin agrees to meet him in private, so Stephen Harper one-ups his
predecessor and invites the holy man to his office.

It's been going on for years, yet the Dalai Lama's goal — more autonomy for his occupied homeland — is no closer than it ever was. As soon as he's on the plane
out of another western capital, the local authorities are back on the horn to Beijing, trying to work up billions more in trade deals. Human rights are no more
respected in China than they ever were, you can be slapped in jailed indefinitely for saying or believing the wrong thing, and the worst criminals are dealt with via a
bullet in the back of the head.

Tibet, meanwhile, remains under Beijing's thumb. A new railway, built with Canadian assistance, helps the troops keep the province under firm control.  Maybe a
million Tibetans have died thanks to Chinese oppression. And the Dalai Lama says it wouldn't surprise him if someone tried to kill him too.

None of this is new. But it also doesn't seem to make any difference. Like some kind of complex international kabuki dance, everyone acts out carefully
orchestrated performances, the audience is entertained, and everyone goes home happy, absolutely nothing having been solved.

The leader in question, whether Harper, Bush, Angela Merkel or whoever else needs a shot of good publicity, gets to pretend they're standing up to China as a
staunch defender of human rights. The Chinese, right on cue, explode in outrage, fulminating against Tibetan "splittists" and their naive fellow-travellers, warning
darkly that some day ... some day ... western powers will be sorry for lending support to such a notorious hooligan. The Dalai Lama gets to deliver his message
once again, much as he's been doing for almost 50 years.

It's been 50 years without much in the way of progress, but that doesn't seem to bother the Dalai Lama. He grins, shakes the proffered hand, does the interviews
and heads off to the next capital and the next press conference. Maybe he likes travelling. Maybe he needs the airline points. Maybe it's some kind of Buddhist thing:
ask little, stay briefly, then go away. No wonder politicians love him.

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