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"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."

Senior Obama Advisor Defends President's Decision Not to Meet with His Holiness

October 26, 2009

The Tibet Post
October 22, 2009

DHARAMSALA, INDIA -- "There's no stronger
advocate for human rights than President Obama,"
said Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor and
Assistant to the President for Intergovernmental
Relations, in an interview for Reuters yesterday.
The comment was made regarding President Obama's
upcoming trip to China next month, and his
decision to postpone meeting with His Holiness
the Dalai Lama until after returning from the
summit in Beijing with Chinese President Hu Jintao.

By denying His Holiness an audience at the White
House, Obama became the first president in 18
years to do so, though Jarrett maintained that
the President was neither snubbing His Holiness
nor cow towing to pressure from China. "It is not
a signal of any lack of commitment to human
rights. That's a ridiculous conclusion to draw."
Critics, however, including human rights groups
and opposition Republicans, assert that the
President is ignoring human rights issues in
order to curry favor with China, the world's
fastest-growing military superpower and largest single holder of US debt.

The President's decision not to grant audience to
His Holiness was made in light of his efforts to
work with Chinese leaders toward improving their
policies on issues such as global warming,
international finance, and nuclear proliferation.
When asked whether it might have been made with
Chinese sensitivities about Tibet in mind,
Jarrett conceded, "That's a fair point to make."

In response to President Obama's decision, His
Holiness told CNN, "I do not want to create any
inconvenience to anybody." He cited China's
displeasure with French President Nikolas Sarkozy
and German Chancellor Angela Merkel for holding
meetings with him last year, noting that "they
were both punished by the Chinese government. If
Obama meets with me now, the Chinese will have a
problem. Should they also punish Obama?"

Jarrett mentioned that the President actually
intended to discuss the issue of Chinese tensions
with Tibet during his trip, and that he would
host the exiled Tibetan leader at the White House
as early as December. "The president has a
relationship with the Dalai Lama. He [also] has a
relationship with the Chinese." Many Tibetans and
Tibetan sympathizers hope that the President will
act as an intermediary of sorts between China and
Tibet, helping the two sides reach a mutually
agreeable compromise over the issue of Tibetan autonomy.
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