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Dalai Lama Receives Rights Award

October 13, 2009

Dalai Lama And Obama Will Not Meet This Week As Monk Receives Rights Award
The Associated Press
October 11, 2009

Powerful U.S. lawmakers honored the Dalai Lama
with a human rights award Tuesday even as
President Barack Obama faced harsh criticism for
delaying a meeting with the exiled Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama and Obama will not meet until
after Obama visits Chinese President Hu Jintao in
Beijing in November. China reviles the Dalai Lama
and pressures foreign governments not to meet
with him. The Obama administration, which needs
Chinese support for crucial foreign policy,
economic and environmental goals, wants to
establish friendly ties between Hu and Obama during next month's visit.

While the Obama administration was accused of
"kowtowing" to Beijing's wishes, supporters
gathered Tuesday at the U.S. Capitol as the
Tibetan monk was given an award in memory of the
late Rep. Tom Lantos of California, a Holocaust
survivor and longtime champion of human rights.

The Dalai Lama said the award encourages him, at
74, to dedicate the rest of his life to the
"promotion of human affection and compassion, and
equality and basic human rights in Tibet, or in mainland China, or everywhere."

Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic speaker of the
House, said at the ceremony that "unless we speak
out for human rights in China and in Tibet, we
lose all moral authority to talk about human rights anywhere in the world."

Many, however, urged Obama to host the Dalai Lama during his visit.

Rep. Frank Wolf, R-Va., said in a speech in
Congress that not inviting the Dalai Lama to the
White House this week could lead to other foreign
leaders who are worried about angering China
brushing off similar chances to meet with him.

"I call on the president to stand side-by-side
with His Holiness, a man of peace, and align
America once again with the oppressed, not the oppressors," Wolf said.

The Dalai Lama has met with the last three
sitting U.S. presidents during his visits to
Washington. Although China calls him a "wolf in
monk's robes" who seeks to split Tibet from the
rest of China, the Dalai Lama says he merely
wants genuine autonomy for Tibetans.

Obama must balance his efforts to develop ties
with China with his desire to support the Dalai
Lama. He also needs to overcome criticism by
those who feel his administration is not doing
enough to push Beijing to better address human rights complaints.

Those who advocate for Tibet see the Dalai Lama's
White House visits as important messages of
support for Tibetans and others struggling for
human rights. A White House audience for the
Nobel Peace Prize laureate this week, however,
would have cast a shadow over Obama's talks with Hu next month.

"You only get one chance to start this the right
way," Douglas Paal, a former senior Asia adviser
for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W.
Bush, said of Obama's relationship with Hu.

Obama recognizes that how he treats the Dalai
Lama will be watched closely _ by Beijing, by
U.S. lawmakers and voters, and by other world
leaders who have been castigated by China for meeting with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama's envoy, Lodi Gyari, played down
the situation, saying that there "has been no
question of President Obama not, at the
appropriate time, meeting His Holiness." He said
in a statement that the Dalai Lama, "taking a
broader and long-term perspective," agreed to
delay the meeting in the hope that a cooperative
U.S.-China relationship will help resolve Tibetans' grievances.

This week, the Dalai Lama also plans to meet with
Maria Otero, the U.S. special coordinator for Tibetan issues.

Unlike past, private meetings with U.S.
presidents, President George W. Bush attended an
elaborate public ceremony in 2007 and presented
the Dalai Lama with the U.S. Congress' highest civilian honor.

Some of the Dalai Lama's supporters hope Bush's
break with tradition sets a precedent for future meetings.

State Department spokesman Ian Kelly wouldn't
discuss the decisionto not meet the Dalai Lama.
Obama, Kelly said, will raise the topic of human
rights during his talks with Hu.

China says Tibet has been part of its territory
for four centuries. It has aggressively governed
the Himalayan region since communist troops took
control there in 1951. Many Tibetans claim they
were effectively independent for most of their
history and say Chinese rule and economic
exploitation are eroding their traditional Buddhist culture.

Copyright 2009 The Associated Press.
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