Obama's "strong support" for human rights in Tibet

24th February 2014

. . . but President says Tibet is part of China

President Barack Obama met His Holiness the Dalai Lama in the White House on Friday, 21 February. The meeting was their third since Mr Obama became President.

Concern for human rights in Tibet

The White House reported that the President had

"reiterated his strong support for the preservation of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic traditions and the protection of human rights for Tibetans in the People’s Republic of China."

However, he also expressed the view that Tibet is a part of China.

China's bully tactics

China reacted with its usual objections to any meeting with the Dalai Lama, saying that the meeting would "sabotage" relations between China and the US. In a statement before the meeting, Free Tibet explained China's tactics.

"China has – as it well knows - no right to tell the leaders of democratic countries that they cannot meet anyone, let alone a spiritual leader and Nobel-laureate who is one of the world’s leading advocates for peace. What China is trying to do is draw a line in the sand: if it can succeed in this, Beijing knows it controls the agenda on Tibet. The rest of the world needs to treat this not as a point of principle from China but a negotiating position: when our leaders push back, China will fall back."

Standing up to China?

The President's willingness to stand up to China on this issue is to be commended. Britain's Prime Minister failed to do so on his recent trip to China. The US has also just appointed Dr. Sarah Sewall to be the Special Coordinator on Tibet Issues. This longstanding role gives specific responsibility for Tibet to a senior US government official. Dr Sewall is already the Under Secretary of State for Civilian Security, Democracy, and Human Rights, However, President Obama still has not expressed consistent, robust and public support for Tibet's plight or the right of Tibetans to decide their own future.

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