Aspen, CO, USA, 25 July 2008 (By John Colson, The Aspen Times) - U.S. Sen. John McCain paused in his ongoing run for the presidency on Friday to trade a few pleasantries in Aspen with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, and to urge China to release Tibetan political prisoners and improve its record in human rights.
The Dalai Lama, in turn, praised McCain’s 'genuine concern about the democracy and human right and religious freedom and environment issue in China in general and in particular in Tibet’s case.'
The two landed separately at the Aspen-Pitkin County Airport, the Dalai Lama about an hour prior to McCain, and then met privately at a home on Lake Avenue in the West End neighborhood for approximately an hour. They then made a few statements to reporters.
A small contingent of protesters appeared at the airport, waving signs about ending the war in Iraq and other national issues as the McCain motorcade of about a half a dozen vehicles drove away from a private tarmac and onto Highway 82.
After meeting with the Dalai Lama, McCain’s motorcade returned to the airport to fly the candidate out and get him to a 5:30 p.m. speech to Hispanic military veterans in Denver.
The Dalai Lama, meanwhile, participated in a panel discussion at the Aspen Institute’s Greenwald Pavillion.
McCain said the Dalai Lama 'represents the profound desire of millions of Tibetan people for basic dignity and human rights. His nonviolence approach, his lifelong work of seeking common ground across cultural and religious divides are an inspiration to all mankind.'
McCain said he has been disappointed by China’s public accusations that the Dalai Lama was behind recent protests in Tibet against Chinese rule (China invaded Tibet in the 1950s, driving the Dalai Lama into exile in India, and have ruled the small nation ever since.)
'Such rhetoric doesn’t serve the cause of peaceful change and reconciliation,' McCain said. 'I urge the Chinese leaders engage in talks ... with His Holiness’ representatives in addressing the just grievances of the Tibetan people, and I urge the Chinese government to release Tibetan political prisoners, account for Tibetans who have disappeared since the protest in March, and engage in meaningful dialogue in genuine autonomy for Tibet.'
While the U.S. welcomes good relations with China, McCain said, 'it does no service to the Chinese government, and certainly no service to the people of China, for the United States and other democracies to pretend that the suppression of rights in China does not concern us. It does, will and must concern us.'
The Dalai Lama, speaking after McCain, said his 'basic commitment is promotion of human value. That means human compassion, human affection. It is, I believe, the biological factor. We need that. This body come from mother, and mother’s affection, mother’s compassion is, I think, the most important experience in our life.'
His other missions are to promote 'secular ethics' and to encourage 'religious harmony,' he said, as well as to proclaim to the world about the repression of the Tibetan people and culture.
But, he said, 'this time, my visit is not political.'