News / USA

    Obama Calls Dalai Lama 'Good Friend,' Inspiration

    President Barack Obama speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Feb. 5, 2015.
    President Barack Obama speaks during the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Feb. 5, 2015.
    VOA News

    U.S. President Barack Obama on Thursday called the Dalai Lama a "good friend'' and an inspiration for freedom.

    President Obama has praised the Dalai Lama as a man of compassion, ignoring China's protest against any American involvement with the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

    Obama did not meet directly with the Dalai Lama when they each attended the annual National Prayer Breakfast Thursday in Washington, but they were seated a short distance away from each other and exchanged greetings.

    "I want to offer a special welcome to a good friend, his holiness, the Dalai Lama, who is a powerful example of what it means to practice compassion and inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings," President Obama told about 3,600 religious and political leaders at the annual gathering.

    Despite the Dalai Lama's insistence that he is only seeking autonomy for Tibet, China views the spiritual leader as a dangerous separatist, and regularly condemns leaders who meet with him.

    Obama condemned those who seek to "highjack religion for their own murderous ends." He called the Islamic State militants who have overtaken parts of Syria and Iraq and beheaded Westerners it has captured a "death cult."

    The Dalai Lama shakes hands with Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Feb. 5, 2014.The Dalai Lama shakes hands with Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Feb. 5, 2014.
    The Dalai Lama shakes hands with Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Feb. 5, 2014.
    The Dalai Lama shakes hands with Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to U.S. President Barack Obama, at the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, Feb. 5, 2014.

    ​He said that "whatever our faith, we must be instruments of peace."

    Obama praised Pope Francis and said he is particularly looking forward to welcoming him during his visit to the United States later this year.

    Senior Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett was seated at the table with the Dalai Lama, a sign of White House support for his presence.

    Before the prayer breakfast, two U.S. lawmakers told VOA that Chinese criticism of U.S. interaction with the Dalai Lama was unfounded.

    "I think it’s profoundly unfortunate and an act of weakness for the Chinese government," said New Jersey Republican congressman Chris Smith, "to object to the Dalai Lama’s meeting with the president or members of the Congress or senators and being at the prayer breakfast."

    New York Democrat Eliot Engel said, "There are always crackdowns on political dissidents and so I think that the Chinese government should clean up its own act before it criticizes other country’s people for inviting people to the prayer breakfast and other things like that.”

    China's warning

    The exchange may still rile China, which bristles at politicians meeting with the Dalai Lama. After the breakfast event was announced, Beijing said it opposed any country meeting with him under any circumstances.

    Despite the Dalai Lama's insistence that he is only seeking autonomy for Tibet, China views the spiritual leader as a dangerous separatist, and regularly condemns leaders who meet with him.

    "We are against any country’s interference in China’s domestic affairs under the pretext of Tibet-related issues, and are opposed to any foreign leader’s meeting with the Dalai Lama in any form,” China's Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Tuesday.

    Before the event, an English-language commentary issued by the state-run Xinhua news agency, which while not a formal statement offers a reflection of Beijing's thinking, strongly warned against any encounter.

    "Chumming with a secessionist is playing with fire,'' the  agency said. "If Obama meets the Dalai Lama, he will simply reverse the positive trends established by China and the U.S. in the development of their relations. For all that, any possible meeting or encounter with the Dalai Lama planned by Obama will dampen the hard-won positive momentum in China-U.S. relations,'' it said.

    Outside the hotel hosting the event, nearly 100 supporters of the Dalai Lama waved Tibetan flags while across the street, about 50 people protested his presence.

    Since taking office, President Obama has met the Dalai Lama three times. But none of the meetings have been held in public.

    Over 3,000 people from various faith backgrounds are expected to attend the high-profile National Prayer Breakfast, which will focus on the importance of religious freedom.

    Back story 

    The Dalai Lama fled to India after a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and has infuriated Beijing. He has said he simply wants autonomy for Tibet and does not advocate  violence.

    China rejects that, saying Tibetans enjoy religious freedom. Beijing also points to huge ongoing investment it says has brought modernization and an increased standard of living to Tibet.

    Many Tibetans in China accuse the government of a campaign of religious and cultural persecution, as the country's majority Han ethnic group continues to move into historically Tibetan areas.

    Since February 2009, more than 126 people have self-immolated in traditionally Tibetan areas of China to protest Beijing's policy in their homeland.

    The Dalai Lama and the Central Tibetan Authority, located in India, are outspoken critics of China's policies, but have discouraged the suicide protests.
    Some material for this report came from Reuters

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    Comment Sorting
    by: RN from: Waterloo
    February 07, 2015 9:50 AM
    if anyone has ever visited Tibet, everything can be understood why Dalai Lama asks for autonomy in Tibet if not separation. All the religious and political affairs are tightly controlled by CCP. Think about it, a government which spends more budget on "keeping stability" of its citizens than on the military. There is no standpoint for the CCP government to condemn anything.

    by: RS from: Canada
    February 06, 2015 10:22 AM
    It is very shocking to read posts from Chinese and say they're Canadians or Americans. That goes against the principle of freedom and democracy. Please cancel your Canadian names and said say you're from China. China does not have any morals except making money. Ask Lao tze, Confucius or Chuang tze..they would never reincarnate as Chinese. It's also very shameful and low-profile to read about China demanding other countries not to see the Dalai Lama or else you're not going to get any candies.
    In Response

    by: Li from: Calgary
    February 06, 2015 11:53 AM
    Aha. If you had enough knowledge about history you would know except Indian people no one is really Canadian or American. The world is evolving. people move around. Chinese people could move to Canada or US and become Canadian and US citizens. They said they were Canadians or Americans doesn't mean they denied their Chinese descent. Do you tell your origin every time?

    Talk about making money. Most Chinese people work much much harder than people in western countries. But the living standards are so low that you can not imagine. What the fault is dreaming a better life. I am sure you go to the supermarket and get stuff which is quite affordable to you. And at the same time you complain Chinese people making money from you. Let's be fair.

    by: Wangchuk from: USA
    February 06, 2015 10:20 AM
    I'm glad Obama invited the Dalai Lama to the National Prayer Breakfast. However I wish the Obama Administration would do more for the Tibetan people. 6 million Tibetans are suffering under CCP oppression. Over 130 Tibetans have self-immolated since 2009 opposing CCP human rights violations. And over 800 Tibetans are political prisoners for exercising their basic human rights. The world needs to stand up to China & stand up for justice in Tibet.

    by: StatVeritas
    February 06, 2015 1:24 AM
    Obama calls Dalai Lama a man of compassion.

    Yeah right.

    The Dalai Lama is a clown he knows nothing about compassion the man and his religion are nothing more a bunch of BS and if people really understood Buddhism they would know that is nothing more than Nihilism.

    The Dalai Lama knows of NO compassion he does nothing for his fellow human beings and his speeches are a bunch of nothing.

    We live in a world who has given its back to the true living God and as a result we have today a culture of death and the Dalai Lama is one of its false leaders.
    In Response

    by: StandingForFreedom from: Followerofbuddha
    February 18, 2015 6:19 AM
    long love dalai lama

    by: Chemi youdon from: Queens New York
    February 05, 2015 12:48 PM
    Communist Chinese It's time to wake up from your own world. Time to Recognize the Only Living Buddha in this world who's love is for all living being before too late.Are you not shame of your narrow minded.

    by: dave from: USA
    February 05, 2015 12:40 PM
    Wasn't this the same president who ushered out the D L via the back door at the White house, thru the garbage cans?! out of fear of the Chinese. Frankly Obama has demonstrated zero credibility and will do anything that is perceived as personally politically enhancing regardless of the costs and merits....what a poor excuse for a leader, and I use the word loosely as he is most definitely not a Leader.

    by: Mike Rowave from: Springfield MO
    February 05, 2015 12:35 PM
    It's no surprise that Obama is inspired by a leader whose political philosophy is so idealistic that his people are suffering and he himself cannot return to his own country.

    by: Lobsang Choephel from: Portland
    February 05, 2015 11:22 AM
    Thank you very much for standing for the truth and justice. Never bow down infront of China where Tibetans and many other continue to suffer simply asking for basic human rights, religious freedom and environment protection.

    by: oldlamb from: Guangzhou
    February 05, 2015 8:33 AM
    Dalai Lama isn't a spiritual leader,firstly,he was the dictator of Tibet where is a province of China.He had accepted the administration of Chinese central government.In 1949s,Dalai Lama went to Beijing for receiving Chinese central government’s letter of appointment as Tibetan Chief Executive.He was not exiled,actually,he fled to India as a fugitive and traitor after his failed insurgency in 1950s.
    In Response

    by: Wangchuk from: NY
    February 06, 2015 10:24 AM
    Thank you, Comrade, your 50 yuan is in the mail. VOA is blocked in China so please tell me how you can access this website from Guangzhou? If you're using a proxy server than you're violating Chinese law. Please immediately report yourself to the police & write a 500 word self-criticism to your Party boss.
    In Response

    by: Skintite from: Earth
    February 05, 2015 12:58 PM
    What right does China have to dictate to any other country who they can meet or not meet. How many freinds does China have? What does China have to fear about this man?
    In Response

    by: anoba125 from: USA
    February 05, 2015 12:51 PM
    always remember that Communists China has so many paid bloggers to defend their own. this bloggers are no more than worst people using this site to promote communist beliefs, lies and just plainly communistic idea. we all need to stop them now not sooner...
    In Response

    by: Christian Olsen
    February 05, 2015 12:40 PM
    China is a worth less dictatorship who's economy is about to unravel. We really don't care what China thinks let alone who they don't like or dislike..
    In Response

    by: John
    February 05, 2015 12:30 PM
    says a man from "Guangzhou"

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