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White House Mum on Dalai Lama Meeting

posted Jun 29, 2011, 6:07 AM by The Tibetan Political Review

Politico, June 27, 2011
Washington, DC

When the Dalai Lama visits the U.S. next week, the White House is expected to perform a familiar Washington ritual: appeasing the Tibetan leader’s supporters while trying to avoid inflaming relations with the Chinese government.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate is scheduled to arrive at the nation’s capital July 6 to lead a 10-day Kalachakra initiation, a high-level Tibetan Buddhist teaching. The spiritual leader, who has met with the U.S. president in almost every visit to Washington since 1991, is also expected to request a sit-down with President Barack Obama at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.

Such a meeting would allow the Dalai Lama to discuss the political situation in China and explain his decision in March to step down as Tibet’s political leader. The Chinese government maintains that Tibet does not have political sovereignty and that the Dalai Lama has no standing to meet with the U.S. government.

Tommy Vietor, spokesman for the National Security Council, said Monday that the White House has no announcement regarding the Dalai Lama’s visit.

Obama’s relationship with the Dalai Lama got off to a rocky start in October 2009, when Obama became the first U.S. president not to host the Tibetan leader at the White House since 1991. The administration cited a scheduling conflict, but many observers believed the meeting was put off to avoid aggravating the Chinese government before Obama’s trip to Beijing the next month.

When the religious leader got an official invitation to the White House in February 2010, one photograph from the visit became famous for all the wrong reasons: It captured the Dalai Lama emerging from a side door of the White House and walking past a pile of snow and large black trash bags on the ground, drawing criticism from members of Congress and human rights organizations who said the White House had been disrespectful.

Now pressure is building for the president to host the leader-in-exile at the White House a second time to make amends.

“The administration’s treatment of the Dalai Lama has been shameful,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairwoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.) said, calling the 2010 publicity flop “more than a mere protocol mishap.”

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