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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Dalai Lama awarded in US despite China anger

February 21, 2010

By Shaun Tandon
February 20, 2010

WASHINGTON -- The Dalai Lama was bestowed Friday
with a US award for his commitment to democracy,
the latest honour for the Tibetan spiritual
leader despite China's angry protests over his White House welcome.

One day after President Barack Obama met the
exiled monk at the White House in defiance of
Chinese warnings, the National Endowment for
Democracy gave the Dalai Lama a medallion before
a standing-room-only crowd at the Library of Congress.

The Endowment, which is funded by the US
Congress, hailed the Dalai Lama for supporting a
democratic government in exile and his
willingness to even abolish his centuries-old
spiritual position if Tibetans so choose.

"By demonstrating moral courage and
self-assurance in the face of brute force and
abusive insults, he has given hope against hope
not just to his own people but also to oppressed
people everywhere," Endowment president Carl
Gershman said before placing the Democracy Service Medal over the monk's neck.

The Dalai Lama, who fled his Chinese-ruled
homeland for India in 1959, voiced admiration for
US and Indian democracy and said China's
authoritarian system was unsustainable.

"The Chinese Communist Party, I think, did many
wrong things. But at the same time, they also
made a lot of contribution for a stronger China," he said.

The Dalai Lama pointed to the growing interest of
many Chinese in getting rich. Calling himself a
Marxist in his support for a strong social safety
net, the Dalai Lama joked: "Sometimes I feel my
brain is more red than those Chinese leaders."

"Sometimes I express now the time has come for
the Communist Party should retire with grace," he
said in English, laughing that Chinese leaders
would be "furious" at his comments.

China earlier protested Obama's meeting with the
Dalai Lama, saying the United States had "grossly
violated basic norms of international relations"
and summoning the US ambassador, Jon Huntsman.

"The US action seriously interfered in Chinese
internal affairs, seriously hurt the feelings of
China's people and seriously harmed China-US
relations," foreign ministry spokesman Ma Zhaoxu said in a statement.

In Washington, State Department spokesman Philip
Crowley said the Dalai Lama's meetings with Obama
and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton were part
of a longstanding US dialogue with the Tibetan leader.

"I think on this issue, obviously we just agree
to disagree," Crowley told reporters.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to split
China, although the exiled leader has repeatedly said he accepts Chinese rule.

In a nod to Chinese sensitivities, the Obama
White House prohibited cameras from entering the
meeting, which took place in the Map Room, not
the seat of presidential power in the Oval Office.

But the White House later issued a statement
voicing support for the Dalai Lama and his
nonviolent quest for greater rights for Tibetans.

With Obama, the Dalai Lama has now met every
sitting US president since George H.W. Bush in 1991.

Offering one tidbit from Thursday's meeting, the
Dalai Lama revealed that Obama gave him a memento
from a much earlier interaction with a US
president -- a copy of a letter Franklin Roosevelt sent him in 1942.

Roosevelt mailed the Dalai Lama, who was then
seven, the letter and a golden Rolex watch as a
gesture to seek relations with the remote Himalayan land.

"At that time, my only interest is the gift of
the watch, not the letter," the Dalai Lama said with a laugh.

"I actually don't know where that letter goes.
Now after 68 years, just yesterday, President
Obama gave me a copy of that letter."

The monk frequently tells the story of the watch,
saying that fiddling with it helped spur his lifelong interest in science.

In 2007, he carried the gold watch in his pocket
when George W. Bush presented him with the
Congressional Gold Medal, the only time a sitting
US president has appeared with him in public.
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