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President Obama reiterates support for genuine autonomy for Tibet PDF Print E-mail
[24 February 2014] US President Barack Obama met with the Dalai Lama in Washington on 21 February. In a statement issued after the meeting, Obama expressed support for the 'Middle Way Approach' (which seeks genuine autonomy for Tibet) and for the preservation of Tibet's religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions. Obama also expressed "deep concern" over the worsening human rights situation in Tibet.

The Dalai Lama and President ObamaThe hour-long private meeting took place in private in the Map Room of the White House, rather than the Oval Office where foreign leaders and dignitaries are usually met. The White House stated that President Obama met the Dalai Lama "in his capacity as an internationally respected religious and cultural leader".

After the meeting, the White House issued the following statement:

"The President met this morning at the White House with His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama. The President reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibets unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the Peoples Republic of China. The President commended the Dalai Lamas commitment to peace and nonviolence and expressed support for the Dalai Lamas Middle Way approach. The President stressed that he encourages direct dialogue to resolve long-standing differences and that a dialogue that produces results would be positive for China and Tibetans. In this context, the President reiterated the U.S. position that Tibet is part of the Peoples Republic of China and that the United States does not support Tibet independence. The Dalai Lama stated that he is not seeking independence for Tibet and hopes that dialogue between his representatives and the Chinese government will resume. The President and the Dalai Lama agreed on the importance of a positive and constructive relationship between the United States and China."

The Tibetan government in exile (Central Tibetan Administration) reported that the Dalai Lama and President discussed the current situation in Tibet and that, "[President Obama] expressed his deep concern about the worsening human rights situation in Tibet and Tibetan areas in China. It also noted, "The two leaders discussed issues related to morality and leadership, and how one can produce new generation of ethical leaders in the 21st century."

The Chinese government issued a statement following the meeting saying, "The US... has grossly interfered in China's internal affairs... severely violated basic norms governing international relations and caused grave damage to China-US relations. We urge the US side once again to correct mistakes, cease to connive and support anti-China separatist forces that seek "Tibet independence", stop interfering in China's internal affairs and take steps to remove the adverse impact so as to avoid further damage to China-US relations."

Sikyong Lobsang Sangay (Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile) called China's criticism an "artificial stance", adding, "What we seek is genuine autonomy within China. We want to see an end to repression of Tibetans and thereby are willing not to seek separation from China. This is a win-win proposition for China and the Chinese government." On the meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Obama, Sangay said, "It sends a very powerful message to Tibetans inside Tibet because it gives them a sense of hope that their voices are heard, even by the most powerful person in the world."

This was the third meeting between the Dalai Lama and President Obama; the previous two occassions being in February 2010 and July 2011. The Dalai Lama formally relinquished his political role in 2011, the duties of which were transferred to the Sikyong (Prime Minister of the Tibetan government in exile).

Further reading: BBC I Reuters I AFPWall Street Journal
Statements: US governmentTibetan government in exile I Chinese Foreign Ministry
Dalai Lama interview: Politics Confidential (ABC, 21 Feb, video 7:35)

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