President Obama met with the Dalai Lama as scheduled on Wednesday, despite objections from the Chinese government.
Obama met the Dalai Lama when the latter visited Washington in 2014 and angered China then when he vowed “strong support” for Tibetans’ human rights, Reuters adds. But the administration stressed that the meeting between the two Noble laureates does not change America’s stand on Tibet.
“In a sense it is a sign of insecurity,” says Kerry Brown, professor of Chinese studies and director of the Lau China Institute at King’s College in London. “They are uneasy to questions about the rights of their control” and are “willing to throw diplomatic capital” over meetings that are actually of little geopolitical significance, he told TIME:
Brown notes that in recent years Western leaders, apart from the U.S., have mostly stopped meeting with the Dalai Lama, largely over fears of negative diplomatic repercussions with Beijing. In 2012, U.K. Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with the Dalai Lama was strongly condemned by the Chinese. “They didn’t get ministerial visits from China for a year,” says Brown.
China’s repression has expanded in Tibetan areas under the regime’s policy of ‘stability maintenance,’ according to a recent study by Human Rights Watch. The report draws on a dataset of nearly 500 cases to highlight the authorities’ diminishing tolerance of peaceful dissent.
After leaving the White House, the Tibetan spiritual leader took part in a discussion on the themes of hope and democracy (above) at the National Endowment for Democracy, the Washington-based democracy assistance group.
“In the struggle for human dignity there is always hope,” said NED President Carl Gershman, as he welcomed barefoot lawyer Chen Guangcheng and labor organizer Han Dongfang to the event.
NED presented its Democracy Service Medal posthumously in honor of the Tibetan Buddhist Monk Tenzin Delek Rinpoche, a prominent political prisoner who died in a Sichuan prison in 2015 after 13 years’ incarceration. He consistently asserted he had been framed, insisting, “I have always taught others not to damage life, why would I have done what they accuse me of.”
The medal was accepted by Tenzin Delek Rinpoche’s cousin Geshe Jamyang Nyima, who noted Rinpoche’s dedication to the welfare of the Tibetan people, as expressed in the schools and clinics he established.
NED Chairman Martin Frost, a former member of Congress, presented a framed copy of the preambles to the US and Tibetan exile constitutions to Dr Lobsang Sangay in recognition of the democratic accomplishments of the Central Tibetan Administration. Sangay recalled an occasion in 1960 when the Dalai Lama paid a visit to Tibetan road workers in Dalhousie, North India, and told them: “I’m here to give you a message of encouragement. We must create a democracy in exile.”