Barack Obama’s response to a questionairre on Tibet from the International Campaign for Tibet. Senator Obama was the only presidential candidate to respond to the questionnaire.
International Campaign for Tibet
Senator Barack Obama Response
1. The Dalai Lama has consistently said he is not seeking independence but genuine autonomy for Tibet within the People’s Republic of China. Is this your understanding?
Yes, and I am proud to have co-sponsored a successful bill in 2006 which recognized the Dalai Lama’s efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue through dialogue with the Chinese leadership. For many years, the Dalai Lama has said that he does not seek independence for Tibet, but supports the integrity and unity of the People’s Republic of China, aiming for a solution based on Tibetan autonomy within China. That China continues to portray the Dalai Lama as a “separatist” is unfortunate and disingenuous.
2. Why do you believe it is so important for the Chinese government to meaningfully engage the Dalai Lama now?
It is time for the Chinese government to engage in a dialogue with the Dalai Lama directly, allow him to return to Tibet, assure that the religious, linguistic and cultural heritage and identity of Tibet is preserved and protected, and to address the legitimate needs of the Tibetan people. For half a century the Chinese government has sought to control all aspects of Tibetan life and to promulgate policies that erode the unique culture and heritage of the Tibetan people. The Chinese government’s policy promoting Chinese migration into Tibet is only one example. As the stresses of that migration escalate – as do the stresses of cultural assimilation, unchecked development and environmental degradation that are associated with it — so too does the urgency of encouraging China to respond to the Dalai Lama directly. The Chinese should see that it is in their best interest to work with the Dalai Lama to assure the identity and cultural integrity of Tibet, to resolve the concerns of the Tibetan people and to take meaningful steps to build the foundation for a legitimate solution for Tibet, recognizing genuine Tibetan autonomy within China.
3. Why did the Congress vote in 2006 to award the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal?
By bestowing the Congressional Gold Medal on the Dalai Lama, Congress sent a clear message in recognition of the Dalai Lama’s tireless advocacy of religious harmony, non- violence, and human rights throughout the world, and for his efforts to find a peaceful solution to the Tibet issue though dialogue with the Chinese leadership. The Dalai Lama is one of the great moral figures of our time, and has led his life in humility, moral courage, and the belief in the redemptive power of human compassion. Certainly another reason for taking such historic action was to send a message to China that the world beyond China’s borders views the Dalai Lama as a great religious leader, someone that the Chinese should no longer demonize or defame or ignore. Sadly, China’s reaction was extremely disappointing.
4. What opportunity does the 2008 Beijing Olympics provide for China in terms of Tibet?
The fact that the 2008 Olympics will occur in Beijing this summer provides an important opportunity for China to take actions – before the Games and during the Games – showing that its peaceful rise to world power status includes not only respect for diverse cultural groups and ethnicities throughout the world but also for those within its own borders. In the run-up to the Games and at the Games as well, China could take highly visible actions showing respect for Tibetan culture. One such action would be – consistent with the Olympic spirit –to welcome the Dalai Lama to Beijing. That would be easy for them to do. But even more importantly, the Chinese could adopt concrete measures aimed at protecting Tibetan culture and guaranteeing basic human rights for Tibetans. They could and should do the same for other ethnic groups inside China as well as for Chinese citizens generally. The Olympics gives China a chance to show that its government does in fact respect Tibet’s unique cultural, religious and linguistic traditions. China does not become a true leader in the international community simply by hosting the Olympics. China will overcome its past history of human rights abuse and earn international respect only if it permits the Dalai Lama to return to Tibet and engages in a respectful dialogue with him. Such an action would have the added benefit of building the basis for long-term stability in this strategic part of China.
ICT expects strong support for Tibet from next US President
International Campaign for Tibet
November 5th, 2008
The International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) congratulates Barack Obama on his election to be the 44th President of the United States and anticipates strong support from the Obama Administration for Tibetan issues. “The Tibetan people will have a friend and strong supporter in President-elect Obama,” said John Ackerly, President of the International Campaign for Tibet. “This is a critical time for the Tibetan issue and we are confident that the Obama Administration will continue the existing support for Tibet and provide new energy for the efforts of the Dalai Lama to engage with the Chinese government. If we build on what Senator Obama has said about Tibet in the past, then we can expect even stronger initiatives from the Untied States in the future,” Ackerly concluded. Senator Obama has a strong record of support for Tibet and has met with the Dalai Lama to discuss human rights issues. Senator Obama attended a private Senate Foreign Relations Committee briefing with the Dalai Lama in November 2005 and has featured a photograph of himself with the Dalai Lama from that briefing in the media section of his presidential campaign website. Senator Obama has personally urged Chinese President Hu Jintao to resolve the situation in Tibet through dialogue with the Dalai Lama or his representatives, and this spring, when demonstrations spread across the Tibetan plateau, Senator Obama telephoned the Dalai Lama in India to discuss the situation. The Senator subsequently called on the Chinese to show restraint in dealing with the protests. Comments by the Senator on his phone call are available on the ICT website athttp://www.savetibet.org/campaign2008/jumppage.html#dem.
Senator Obama was also a Senate sponsor of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama Congressional Gold Medal Act, which awarded the nation’s highest civilian honor to the Dalai Lama in October 2007. The Obama-Biden campaign has pledged to actively engage China on a number of issues, including human rights in Tibet and China’s crackdown on democracy and religious freedom activists. The campaign has pledged to “be frank with the Chinese about such failings and will press them to respect human rights.” Among the senior foreign policy advisors to the Obama campaign is Gregory B. Craig, the first U.S. Special Coordinator for Tibetan Issues, appointed by then Secretary of State Madeleine Albright in 1996. As a long-serving member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Joe Biden has been a consistent voice in support of Tibetan issues and a force behind the establishment of Radio Free Asia which is crucial to disseminating news unfiltered by Chinese state media to communities inside Tibet. The International Campaign for Tibet thanks Senator John McCain for his support for Tibet in this campaign year and especially for his public appeal for the fair treatment of Tibetan political prisoners. Senator McCain held a highly publicized meeting with the Dalai Lama in Aspen, Colorado in July, commenting afterwards that the Dalai Lama’s “nonviolence approach and his lifelong approach of seeking common ground around cultural and religious divides are an inspiration for all of mankind and to millions of Americans.”