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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?"

Shunning Tibet

September 17, 2009

WSJ - September 16, 2009

The Obama Administration may think its decision to cold shoulder the Dalai
Lama on the Tibetan leader's upcoming trip to Washington is smart politics.
But if the leader of the free world doesn't stand up for religious freedom,
who will?

The news broke earlier this week when an Obama aide told the Tibetans that
the President wants to meet Chinese leaders before he meets the Dalai Lama.
This is par for the course for an Administration that gave only lackluster
support to Iran's democrats and has made conciliatory overtures to Putin's
Russia and Kim Jong Il's North Korea.

But it's still a big departure from a significant and important tradition:
President George Bush met the Dalai Lama every time the monk visited
Washington; as did President Bill Clinton. The Tibetans hadn't formally
scheduled a meeting with President Obama for next month, but the Dalai Lama
had expressed his hope to meet the President on the trip.

Mr. Obama may be trying to smooth the waters after raising tariffs on
Chinese tire imports Friday. Or he may think that a Tibet snub will buy him
concessions from China when he visits Beijing in November. Or he may be
simply caving to Chinese pressure not to have the meeting. China has bullied
Australia, Germany, Canada and France in recent years for welcoming the man
they label a "splittist."

By delaying his meeting with the Dalai Lama, Mr. Obama is only rewarding
that choleric behavior and giving Beijing more leeway to protest whenever he
does work up the nerve to meet the Dalai Lama. It also sends a message to
other democracies that it's acceptable to cave to Chinese pressure.

Also missing from this picture is any understanding of why the Dalai Lama's
cause is so important to both Chinese and U.S. interests. The Dalai Lama
advocates the same human freedoms on which the U.S. was founded: Democracy
and the right to exercise basic civil liberties, including freedom of
worship. China won't be a stable and prosperous country until it respects
these freedoms. And a peaceful China is in everyone's interests.

President Obama has been in office nearly eight months; that's twice as long
as it took for Messrs. Bush or Clinton to meet the Dalai Lama. The Tibetans
certainly understand what's going on: Prime Minister Samdhong Rinpoche said
Tuesday that "a lot of nations are adopting a policy of appeasement" toward
China "even the U.S. government." This is change we can believe in?
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