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October 8, 2009

Why won’t President Obama meet with the Dalai Lama? Because of China—and you, and me.


Christian Griffith, great climber and friend, and founder of Verve Clothing, called me up as I cycled home. “Obama’s taking a step backward from Bush!,” he said, with disbelief. “He won’t meet with the Dalai Lama when he’s in Washington next week—this after Bush gave the Dalai Lama the Medal of Freedom, last year,” sparking protests from the Chinese government.

It’s true—though Obama has agreed to meet with the Dalai Lama later, after the China-US trade talks, Christian pointed out that we were giving up our economic and human rights claims to superiority in continuing to bow to China’s wishes.

And Christian, most interestingly, made one more point: it isn’t Obama’s fault. It’s my fault, and everyone who ever buys Made in China, continuing to shift the balance of power over to our Red brothers and sisters, who don’t hesitate to lock up Tibetans who have the nerve to think they should have freedom in what used to be their own country.

Full article here. Excerpt:

No Obama Meeting for the Dalai Lama

By JAMES GRAFF, Foreign Editor

(Oct. 5) – The Dalai Lama, Tibet’s spiritual leader, arrived in Washington Monday for a week’s visit during which he will both bestow and receive awards for human rights. What he won’t do is engage in an event that has been the focal point of all ten of his visits to the capital since 1991: a meeting with the U.S. president.
In an agreement worked out over months of diplomacy exhaustively reconstructed by the Washington Post, Tibetan authorities agreed not to push the issue of a meeting this month with President Barack Obama, who will visit China in November. The Chinese government considers the Dalai Lama the leader of a separatist or “splittist” movement, and it strenuously objects as a matter of course to any foreign leader meeting with him. As its economic might grows, Beijing is proving increasingly successful at making its objections stick.
The Dalai Lama’s representative in Washington, Lodi Gyaltsen Gyari, said in a statement on Monday that “there has been no question” that Obama would not meet the Dalai Lama “at the appropriate time,” but that “taking a broader and long-term perspective, His Holiness agreed to meet the president after the November US-China Summit.”
The president’s departure from accepted treatment of the delicate issue of the Dalai Lama is neither isolated nor accidental. The Tibetan leader was in Canada last week, where he did not meet with Prime Minister Stephen Harper either. In 2007, Harper had been the first Canadian Prime Minister to meet the Dalai Lama in public. That same year, President George W. Bush awarded the Tibetan the Congressional Medal of Freedom.
Since then, however, China has shown it can make its rancor felt. French President Nicolas Sarkozy ran afoul of Beijing in the run-up to the 2008 Olympics, which he threatened to boycott to protest China’s human rights record. After activists in Paris jostled the Olympic torch, a torrent of anti-French feeling swept over China, including boycotts of French products. Sarkozy ended up attending the Beijing Olympics after all, but later that year, Beijing cancelled a European Union-China summit to protest Sarkozy’s plans to meet the Dalai Lama in December. Sarkozy was widely criticized in France for his unsteady management of a tricky diplomatic brief…
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