Join our Mailing List

"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Editorial: The right welcome for the Dalai Lama

November 2, 2007

Editorial, The Record, Waterloo, Ontario

October 30, 2007

Stephen Harper pulled the Chinese dragon's tail yesterday -- and good
for him.

By welcoming the Dalai Lama to Canada so publicly and enthusiastically,
the prime minister knowingly infuriated the government of China. By
going further than any Canadian politician before him in according
official respect and recognition to the exiled spiritual leader of
Tibet, Harper risked damaging Canada's relationship with one of its most
important trading partners.

But in acting this way, Harper most certainly did the right thing,
morally and diplomatically, for Canada and the world.

China is an emerging world superpower. Its tireless factories drive the
planet's economy. Its economic miracle has lifted hundreds of millions
of Chinese out of poverty. Yet, for all this, China is an authoritarian
state guilty of the brutal and relentless oppression of Tibet. More than
50 years after invading Tibet -- and claiming it as its own fiefdom --
China continues to keep Tibet under its thumb. According to the
respected human rights group Amnesty International, China routinely
suppresses freedom of speech, association and religion in Tibet.
Meanwhile, China is settling Tibet with members of the Chinese Han
ethnic group.

To advocate greater autonomy for Tibet, in Tibet, is to court
imprisonment, torture and death. Tibetans who attempt to flee their
homeland risk summary execution. The Dalai Lama -- an esteemed religious
leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner -- estimates that more than half a
million Tibetans have been killed over nearly five decades of resistance
against the Chinese communists. Other observers put the toll in human
lives at over one million.

China dislikes being reminded or lectured about its callous trampling of
human rights in Tibet. Paul Martin was fully aware of this -- and the
money being made in trade with China -- when he was prime minister. When
the Dalai Lama visited Canada in 2004, Martin agreed to meet him only in
a low-key session in the home of a Roman Catholic archbishop. It was a
nod to the Dalai Lama as a revered Buddhist religious leader, not to the
courageous political advocate of greater Tibetan autonomy.

As prime minister, Harper has done better. He is more willing to get in
the face of the Chinese government. In 2006, Harper's government awarded
the Dalai Lama honourary Canadian citizenship. By meeting with the Dalai
Lama yesterday in the prime minister's own office, Harper again shone
the lights of news cameras on the Chinese boots grinding Tibet into the
dirt. Harper is, to be sure, a partner in a delicate diplomatic dance.
It is in Canada's interest to trade with China and develop friendly
relations with that country. It is in the world's interest that this
great Asian nation is fully engaged as a member of the international

But if Canada believes, as it claims to, in the primacy of human liberty
and human rights, it must fearlessly defend those values at home and
abroad. The Dalai Lama does not call for Tibet independence. He cries
out for more freedom. Moreover, he counsels peaceful methods as the way
to achieve that political change. German Chancellor Angela Merkel and
U.S. President George W. Bush both recently lent public support to the
Dalai Lama. Now Harper has, too. Let's hope that some day, such firm but
restrained prodding coaxes China into breaking the chains with which it
binds Tibet.

CTC National Office 1425 René-Lévesque Blvd West, 3rd Floor, Montréal, Québec, Canada, H3G 1T7
T: (514) 487-0665
Developed by plank