Commentary Magazine


Re: Can the Chinese Bluff Obama Out of Meeting the Dalai Lama?

Jonathan, in your post you write, “America’s record on Chinese human rights has been spotty at best in the last generation. Bill Clinton met the Dalai Lama, but only informally. Similarly, George W. Bush only met privately with him.”

Actually, that’s not right, as this October 17, 2007 story (and accompanying picture) demonstrate. In the words of the Associated Press:

President Bush, raising Beijing’s ire, presented the Dalai Lama on Wednesday with the U.S. Congress’ highest civilian honor and urged Chinese leaders to welcome the monk to Beijing.

The exiled spiritual head of Tibet’s Buddhists by his side, Bush praised a man he called a “universal symbol of peace and tolerance, a shepherd of the faithful and a keeper of the flame for his people.”

“Americans cannot look to the plight of the religiously oppressed and close our eyes or turn away,” Bush said at the U.S. Capitol building, where he personally handed the Dalai Lama the prestigious Congressional Gold Medal.

The story continues:

China reviles the 72-year-old monk as a Tibetan separatist and vehemently protested the elaborate public ceremony. But at a news conference earlier in the day, Bush said he did not think his attendance at the ceremony would damage U.S. relations with China.

“I support religious freedom; he supports religious freedom. … I want to honor this man,” Bush told reporters at the White House. “I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation’s interest.”

Whatever complaints one may have about George W. Bush, not standing up for human rights ought not to be one of them.