February 22, 2010

Sandals in the Snow (and Garbage)

I can't even comprehend the motivation behind such an unceremonious exit as that given to His Holiness the Dalai Lama.  Can you imagine the uproar if this were the Pope being hauled out by the elbow?

US Downplays Obama's Meeting with Dalai Lama as Part of Chess Game with the Chinese
Martin Barillas
February 22nd 2010
The unceremonious departure of the Dalai Lama from the White House on February 19 gained almost as much currency as the actual meeting between the Tibetan Buddhist leader and President Barack Obama. While leaving the Executive Mansion, the Dalai Lama was captured on film exiting through a door usually used by household staff where the West Wing meets the main presidential residence. The saffron-robed monk, a recipient of the Nobel Prize and revered icon for Buddhists and lovers of liberty was seen walking around trash bags in his sandals in chilly Washington DC.
The photo promptly went all over the world, sparking criticism and bewilderment. For its part, the White House released only one photo of the actual meeting between the two leaders, showing them in conversation.
China, which has occupied the mountainous nation of Tibet since the 1950s, duly registered its diplomatic pique over the visit. The American ambassador in Beijing was summoned for a consultation with the Chinese foreign ministry in protest. A Chinese spokesman averred that the Tibetan spiritual leader’s visit with Obama had “seriously harmed” Sino-American relations. The Chinese registered its “solemn representation” to the U.S. diplomat that international relations had been damaged because of Obama’s refusal to heed Chinese warnings. “We believe the actions of the U.S. side have seriously interfered in Chinese internal affairs, seriously hurt the feelings of the Chinese people, [really?] and seriously undermined China-U.S. relations,” said the Chinese spokesman.
[...]  The White House went forward with the meeting even while calculating it that meant angering the Chinese. “I don’t think this has come as a surprise, no,” said U.S. Ambassador Jon Hunstman. “The president had expressed his concerns for human rights in Tibet and his admiration for the Dalai Lama as an international religious figure. I can’t say what would appease the Chinese on this meeting, but of course we had told the Chinese months in advance and in fact when President Obama was here in November he did mention he intended to meet with the Dalai Lama when he had his meeting with President Hu Jintao.”
In an open letter, Arjia Rinpoche—Director of the Tibetan Mongolian Buddhist Cultural Center and one of the most respected Tibetan Buddhist leaders in exile—wrote “The visit of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and President Barack Obama has far more far reaching significance than many commentators are giving credit. The President, despite Chinese objections, is showing the Dalai Lama greater respect than any president before him and is also a meeting of two very special people.” In 2009, Obama met with President Hu of China and was criticized for not meeting with the Dalai Lama first. However, Rinpoche notes the criticisms, at least two U.S. diplomatic envoys went to the exiled leader’s headquarters in India to discuss preparations for the eventual visit.

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