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.
    x
    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

    Error rendering storify.

    You May Like

    Video Democrats Clinton, Kaine Offer 'Very Different Vision' Than Trump

    In a jab at Trump, Clinton says her team wants to 'build bridges, not walls'; Obama Hails Kaine's record; Trump calls Kaine a 'job-killer'

    Turkey Wants Pakistan to Close Down institutions, Businesses Linked to Gulen

    Thousands of Pakistani students are enrolled in Gulen's commercial network of around two dozen institutions operating in Pakistan for over two decades

    AU Passport A Work in Progress

    Who will get the passport and what the benefits are still need to be worked out

    This forum has been closed.
    Comment Sorting
    Comments
         
    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"

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora