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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Dalai Lama envoy: Canceled meeting was 'misread by the Chinese'

February 18, 2010

Josh Rogin
Foreign Policy
February 17, 2010

China's response to the upcoming meeting in the
White House between President Obama and the Dalai
Lama depends on whether Communist Party leaders
believe their protests will produce a concession
from the White House, the exiled Tibetan
spiritual leader's top envoy said Tuesday.

"Of course they will make a lot of noise. They do
that all the time. But they are also rational,"
said Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, one of the senior
envoys of Tenzin Gyatso, also known as the Dalai
Lama. Gyari has been dealing with Chinese on contentious issues for decades.

"The moment they think they can get something out
of it, they will become relentless. But the
moment they realize it's not going to work, that's it," he said.

The meeting comes after a previous meeting
between the two Nobel Peace Prize winners was
canceled during the Dalai Lama's last trip to
Washington last autumn. That meeting was scuttled
in part because the Obama administration did not
want to upset U.S.-China relations ahead of the
president's trip to China last November. There
was also a hope that the Chinese would respond favorably.

But Gyari said he now has deep reservations about
the decision to scuttle that meeting.

"We had a lot of misgivings, but in the end that
was a decision we took together because we saw
some merit in it," he said. "Our intentions were
noble, but I think it was misread by the Chinese."

The envoy said the decision created a setback for
Tibet that showed itself in similar actions by
the Danish and French governments. But Gyari said
the greatest concern about the cancelled meeting
last year was the effect it had on the morale of Tibetans inside Tibet.

"Inside they get only some information ... this
was devastating," he said. "As long as the
Tibetans inside Tibet know that their
spokesperson, their leader, has the opportunity
to intersect on their behalf at the highest
level, no one wants to band their head, to be
arrested or tortured. But when they think that's
not happening, that sometimes can actually lead to destabilization."

Gyari urged foreign governments not to yield to
Chinese pressure about hosting the Dalai Lama,
saying that it was equivalent to agreeing with
Beijing's depiction of the lama as a dangerous
radical whose real goal is Tibetan independence,
not greater autonomy and religious freedom within China.

"Whenever any world leader refuses to meet with
His Holiness because of China's protest of him
being a ‘splittist,' if they oblige they must
understand they are then reinforcing or they are
subscribing to the Chinese accusation that His
Holiness is a splittist. Simple as that."

Much of the coverage of the Obama-Lama meeting
will focus on optics, analyzing the atmospherics
and symbols surrounding the summit to infer what
the White House is thinking about engaging the exiled Tibetan leader.

For example, the meeting will be held in the map
room at the White House, not the private
residence or the Oval Office, as some early
reports indicated. There is no announced press
conference and no planned joint meeting with
Obama, the Dalai Lama, and congressional leaders,
as was held in 2007 when Congress awarded the
Dalai Lama the congressional Medal of Honor.

But those details are not that important to the
Dalai Lama, Gyari said, who just values the
opportunity to meet the U.S. president and share
views and ideas. He did acknowledge that everyone
isn't so unconcerned with such details.

"A lot of people do care ... the Chinese care
because sometimes the substance and form are of
equal importance," said Gyari. "And the Tibetans care."
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