Dalai Lama Thanks Obama for Support

November 18th 2009

Rome, Italy, 18 November 2009 (By Guy Dinmore, Financial Times) - The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, on Wednesday expressed his appreciation for the support given to him by Barack Obama, the US president, while in China, as members of the exiled government said they were hopeful that stalled talks with Beijing would resume soon.

Speaking in Rome at an international parliamentary conference on Tibet, the Dalai Lama said the Obama administration had been 'very supportive', as had the previous Bush and Clinton administrations. He noted the appointment by the White House of a special Tibet coordinator.

In Beijing on Tuesday, Mr Obama called for the "early resumption of dialogue" between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama.

A White House official, briefing reporters, said Mr Obama discussed Tibet with Hu Jintao, China's president, 'making clear his respect for the Dalai Lama as a cultural and religious leader, and his intention to meet with the Dalai Lama at an appropriate time'.

Members of the Tibetan delegation travelling with the Dalai Lama suggested the two sides were seeking to set a date to resume discussions.

Talks between the two sides resumed in 2002 after a long break. The last round was held in July last year but hit a wall after the Tibetan delegation presented detailed proposals for the administration of Tibet as an autonomous region within China, with guarantees preserving Tibetan culture and freedom of religion.

The Dalai Lama, who fled his homeland 50 years ago, said the Chinese side had accused the Tibetans of using their proposals to 'disguise an independence movement', despite his insistence that Tibet was not seeking independence but only guarantees that were already present in the Chinese constitution.

'In many authoritarian regimes, one hearing organ is missing,' he said, tugging at his ear. 'Like Burma,' he added, referring to Aung San Suu Kyi, the detained opposition leader and fellow Nobel peace prize laureate.

'Communist hardliners believe that power comes from the barrel of a gun,' the Dalai Lama said, quoting Mao Zedong, China's revolutionary founder. Tibetans too, he said, were ready to sacrifice their lives but the only way forward was one of non-violence.

Tibet's non-violent struggle and its Buddhist belief in compassion is helping the Chinese government in its declared policy of pursuing a 'harmonious' society, the Dalai Lama said.

'The Chinese policy to bring stability and harmony by using force is counter-productive,' he added.

China last month executed at least two Tibetans accused of committing fatal arson attacks during unrest in March marking the 50th anniversary of the Dalai Lama's flight to India.

With his characteristic laugh, the Dalai Lama also noted the 'limitations' to the support he could expect from the US. Mr Obama, anxious not to derail his first visit to China, avoided meeting the Dalai Lama when the religious leader visited Washington in September. They are expected to meet soon, possibly next month.

Mr Obama is understood to have conveyed the Dalai Lama's positions to Mr Hu as briefed to Valerie Jarrett, a White House adviser, who visited the exiled government in India.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2009.

 

 

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