Dalai Lama shunned by Obama, gets award from speaker Pelosi

October 6th, 2009 - 10:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Barack Obama By Arun Kumar
Washington, Oct 6 (IANS) Even as President Barack Obama was strategically avoiding the Dalai Lama apparently to gain favour with China, the Tibetan spiritual leader was at the Capitol Tuesday picking up a prize for fighting for human rights.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, a long-time China critic, was set to present the Lantos Human Rights Prize, named after late Democrat Representative Tom Lantos, a human rights proponent, who was the only member of Congress to survive the Holocaust. He died of throat cancer last year.

The exiled Dalai Lama has spent his life fighting for human rights and world peace, and won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989. Obama will be the first president not to meet the Dalai Lama since he first visited Washington DC in 1991.

Republicans are criticising Obama for putting off his meeting with the Dalai Lama until after his November meeting with Chinese leader Hu Jintao.

They say the decision not to meet the spiritual leader during his visit to Washington sends the wrong message to Tibet, China and the world on human rights.

“The US is kowtowing to Beijing again by refusing to meet with His Holiness,” said Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the top Republican on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. “This is a policy turned upside down.”

“The Chinese are beginning to dictate what the Obama administration is doing,” said Republican member Frank Wolf. “Do you think the Chinese will respect this? It’s a sign of weakness.”

Wolf said the administration can honour the Dalai Lama and still continue discussions with China. “Ronald Reagan called the Soviet Union ‘the Evil Empire,’” he said. “But Mikhail Gorbachev still came to his funeral.”

China has publicly opposed any White House meeting with the Dalai Lama, and the administration has sought to improve ties with the rising global power. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said that concern over China’s human-rights record should not “interfere with the global economic crisis, the global climate-change crisis and the security crisis”.

The Obama administration is seeking cooperation with China on a range of issues, from imposing sanctions through the United Nations to control Iran’s nuclear programme to setting a new economic order for the world by re-balancing trade and savings patterns.

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