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Dalai Lama and UMass students agree Tibet should be free from China

February 26, 2010

Sara Crossman
Daily Collegian
University of Massachusetts
February 23, 2010

Although President Barack Obama hosted the Dalai
Lama in the Map Room of the White House last
Thursday, this meeting does not represent United
States support for Tibetan independence. The U.S.
officially supports the People’s Republic of
China’s self-proclaimed territory, which includes Tibet.

This visit was intentionally kept low-key in
order to show support for human rights issues,
while blatantly trying not to anger China.
Relations between China and the U.S. are already
strained after the announcement last month of
arms sales to Taiwan in excess of six billion
dollars. China feels that the U.S. is flouting
its authority by dealing directly with its two
most internationally contentious areas.

Normally U.S.-Chinese relations are pretty good.
Considering that China is one of our biggest
trading partners, the U.S. usually doesn’t want
to create bad feelings between the two countries,
but U.S. officials have said that the
relationship is going through a rough patch.

Currently, what is most important to the U.S. is
very different from what is most important to
China, and so it has been difficult for the two
nations to reach an agreement on anything.

Because of this, China took the Dalai Lama’s
visit extra hard, but the U.S. did inform China
last November that he would be visiting. China
has still released several outraged articles in
its national newspaper "Xinhua" and has spoken to
the American ambassador on this matter. China is
very sensitive about territorial issues, and it has good reason to be.

There have been protests to "Free Tibet" all over
the world, and many Americans support Tibet’s
desire for independence from China, including
many UMass students. Usually about once a
semester students at UMass launch a protest to
"Free Tibet." This issue, like the issues of
democracy and censorship in China, are considered
major problems by the American people.

But here’s the thing, would anyone contend that
California should be its own country? Of course
not. There is certainly less difference between
Californians and people from the rest of the U.S.
than the peoples of Tibet and those of the rest
of China, especially considering that there are
officially recognized national minorities in
China that live only in Tibet. However, the two cases are not so dissimilar.

History lesson. For those of you who have
forgotten, over the course of the 19th century
U.S. citizens moved west to California, Oregon,
Washington and the Midwest states in between the
West Coast and Louisiana. This began around
mid-century with the California Gold Rush and the
Oregon Trail, and it was called Westward
Expansion. Since then the states formed have
become important and fully integrated parts of the United States.

In addition, the U.S. added its 49th and 50th
states as recently as 1959, but no one is
protesting to "Free Alaska." Although China had
held control over Tibet since the 13th century,
China reasserted its control over Tibet in 1951,
and China took control of what it believes to be
land that has historically been a part of China.

In addition, Tibet is an autonomous region in
China, which means it has a certain degree of
autonomy. Laws like the One Child Policy, which
apply to the vast majority of the Chinese
population, do not apply to the Tibetan peoples.
Tibet has its own local leadership, but this
hasn’t been the Dalai Lama for a very long time.

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of Tibet.
His escape to India in 1959 after revolts against
the Chinese government have sparked most of the
current controversy over whether or not Tibet
should be its own country. What would have
happened if he had stayed no one knows, but
according to his own website, the Dalai Lama left
because the Nechung Oracle told him to leave, not
because the Chinese government forced him to leave.

Although he has been in exile for 50 years, he is
still a strong symbol of hope for Tibet and many
people around the world. The Dalai Lama is also
an important enough global leader that President
Obama, and the three presidents preceding him,
entertained the Dalai Lama. They have not done so
in protest of China’s policies, but rather, because of the hope he stands for.

This visit to the White House may not have
changed anything for Tibet, but it certainly
won’t be the Dalai Lama’s last visit.

Whether or not Tibet should be freed, many
definitely believe it is a cause worth fighting
for, and it will continue to be supported by
many, from the Dalai Lama to UMass students.

Sara Crossman is a Collegian columnist. She can
be reached at .
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