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Barack Obama expresses support for Tibet in letter to Dalai Lama

July 31, 2008

International Campaign for Tibet
Press Release
July 29, 2008

Barack Obama, U.S. Senator for Illinois and presumptive U.S.
presidential nominee of the Democratic Party, sent a letter to His
Holiness the Dalai Lama on Thursday (July 24) to assure him of his
highest respect and support "for your mission and your people at this
critical time." Arizona Senator John McCain, presumptive U.S.
presidential nominee of the Republican Party, met the Dalai Lama to
discuss Tibet on Friday (July 25) in Aspen, Colorado.

In his letter to the Dalai Lama, delivered by Ambassador Jeffrey
Bader, Barack Obama expresses regret that their respective travel
schedules did not permit a meeting during the Dalai Lama’s visit
this month to the U.S., and writes: "I hope that this letter and your
meeting with Senator McCain will make clear that American attention
to and backing for the people of Tibet is widespread and transcends
the divisions of our political contest in this important election
year.” Senator Barack Obama last met the Dalai Lama in 2005 at a
Senate Foreign Relations Committee event.

The full text of the letter, which appears on Sen. Obama's website
follows below.

July 24, 2008

Your Holiness,

I regret that our respective travel schedules will prevent us from
meeting during your visit to the United States this month, but I
wanted to take the opportunity to reassure you of my highest respect
and support for you, your mission and your people at this critical
time. I hope that this letter and your meeting with Senator McCain
will make clear that American attention to and backing for the people
of Tibet is widespread and transcends the divisions of our political
contest in this important election year.

I was heartened to read of the continuing dialogue between your
representatives and the government of the People's Republic of China.
Although progress is likely to be slow, and the travails of the
people of Tibet will continue, I am hopeful that the process of
dialogue and negotiation will bring positive results if both sides
demonstrate good intentions and mutual respect. I remain optimistic
that this process will continue beyond the Beijing Olympics, and
pledge that I will continue to support it. The right to practice
their religious beliefs without punishment or obstruction is one that
should be accorded the people of Tibet, and I will continue to
encourage the Chinese government to put aside its suspicions and act
in accordance with its own constitution.

I will continue to support you and the rights of Tibetans. People of
all faiths can admire what you are doing and what you stand for, and
I look forward to meeting you at another time.

With great respect,

Barack Obama

The meeting between the Dalai Lama and U.S. Senator John McCain, who
was accompanied by Sen. Lindsey Grahm (R-SC), on Friday lasted more
than 45 minutes during which His Holiness briefed the Senator on the
situation in Tibet and the status of the Tibetan-Chinese dialogue
process. In his remarks to the media after the meeting, Senator
McCain said, “I urge the Chinese leaders to engage in talks and
make progress with His Holiness' Representatives in addressing the
just grievances of the Tibetan people. I urge the Chinese government
to release Tibetan political prisoners and account for Tibetans who
have ‘disappeared' since the protests in March and engage in
meaningful dialogue and genuine autonomy for Tibet."

Sen. McCain also said: "The Olympics next month should be a time for
China to demonstrate to the world that it is committed to respecting
the basic human rights of its people. The United States welcomes good
relations with China but it does no service to the Chinese
government, and certainly no service to the people of China, for the
United States and other democracies to pretend that the suppression
of rights in China does not concern us. It does, will and must concern us.”

In his remarks, the Dalai Lama said: "This time my visit is
non-political. My old friend, now one of the candidates for president
of this great country, and I had the opportunity of meeting. Indeed I
feel great, great honor. And he was showing genuine concern about
democracy, human rights, religious freedom and environment issue in
China in general and particularly in Tibet's case. And I explained
the up to date situation. They both showed genuine concern and
interest. So thank you very much.”

Senator McCain responded by saying: "Thank you Your Holiness. That is
not an endorsement. That is a statement of the incredible power and
influence of this unique citizen of the world.”

Press contact:
Kate Saunders
Communications Director, ICT
Tel: +44 7947 138612
CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
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