Commentary Magazine


Contentions

Hello, Dalai!

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, the new face of Western resolve, will meet with the Dalai Lama this Sunday. In a move obviously intended to further rile Beijing, Germany’s leader will receive His Holiness in the German chancellery.

China immediately summoned Berlin’s ambassador to complain. Chinese diplomats are busy these days because this week they also objected to the Tibetan’s upcoming visit with Canada’s Stephen Harper, scheduled for next month. The Canadian prime minister also went out of his way to poke the Chinese in the eye by announcing that he too would receive the Nobel laureate in a government facility (the Dalai Lama’s last meeting with a Canadian leader, which took place in 2004, was a five-minute affair in the residence of the Roman Catholic archbishop in Ottawa).

China’s dominant Han ethnic group has struggled to control the Tibetans for centuries, but the Chinese Communist Party has opened an especially ugly chapter in this history by trying to suppress—and even eliminate—Tibetan folklore and customs. Many call Beijing’s “modernization” efforts “cultural genocide.” China’s current supremo, Hu Jintao, should be able to shed some light on this. After all, as Party secretary for Tibet he presided over a crackdown that led to the deaths of dozens and perhaps hundreds of citizens in 1989. Many believe he was chosen to be China’s leader precisely because of his brutal repression of the Tibetans.

President Bush, to his credit, has hosted the Dalai Lama. That, however, was the old Dubya. The exhausted president we see today has been reduced to throwing South Lawn events for Chinese authoritarians, denigrating Taiwanese democrats, and helping Beijing repress its Muslims. We know that something must be terribly wrong when a Canadian leader appears more inspiring than ours.