Warehouse D
Strange Summit
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Concerning The Dalai Lama’s Bold Face-off With Beijing


By James Donahue


The Dalai Lama’s offer to face Chinese President Hu Jintao over the Tibet crisis is considered by many world leaders as “extraordinary” for a religious leader of his caliber. That crisis, which involved a clash between demonstrators and the Chinese military following the Dalai Lama’s appearance in Tibet, is centered on his recent return to his homeland as a spiritual leader.


The so-called summit between the Dalai Lama and President Hu would, indeed, set a precedent. As far as we know, no Communist leader has ever held a political conference with a Dalai Lama. And this would, indeed, be a meeting with deep political significance.


As a Chinese spokesman indicated about the proposed meeting, President Hu would be prepared to talk to the Dalai Lama if he stopped “separatist activities” and agreed to recognize Tibet and Taiwan as parts of China.


That is a tall order for a person like the Dalai Lama, who is thought of by his followers as a god in the flesh yet forced for years to live in exile from his home in Tibet following a Chinese takeover.


At stake is a quest for a peaceful solution to the violent protests against Chinese rule that began in Lhasa and spread through other towns and provinces. China has dispatched more troops across the region, there have been shootouts, and some say as many as 80 civilians have been killed in the clashes.


The Dalai Lama will want to put a stop to the killing and find some way to negotiate for some kind of peaceful solution to the fighting that was triggered by his visit. Chinese leaders are blaming the spiritual leader of sparking the violence.


The Dalai Lama denies a political motive. In fact, he says he is not seeking independence for Tibet. “It is my mantra – we are not seeking independence,” he said. He noted that the Chinese constitution also allows autonomy for Tibet, so he believes a solution to the conflict may be possible.


He may have some leverage for such a meeting. The Dalai Lama is a popular international figure who is offering to go into the heart of impiety to secure peace for his homeland and perhaps allow him to return to his homeland to die. Beijing will be hosting the Olympic Games this year, and is thus interested in maintaining its reputation in international circles.


While this meeting may be possible it will obviously be awkward for two world leaders coming from extreme opposite philosophical points of view. But the Dalai Lama will not be in any danger. His biggest concern seems to be that the world media will blow such a meeting out of proportion and that the people of Tibet may have “unrealistic expectations” as to what such a meeting might achieve.


We are not surprised then that the Dalai Lama would offer to participate in such an unusual meeting with the leader of a nation that has created so much heartache throughout his life. If the action might bring peace to Tibet, and save human life, it would be well worth the effort.


We cannot help but remember when President George W. Bush was threatening to bomb Baghdad in the fall of 2001 when we suggested that the Dalai Lama and the late Pope Paul II might block such an evil act by standing in the heart of that city even as the order was being given to launch the attack. As we recall, several concerned Americans attempted to travel to Iraq and turn themselves into human shields but they were stopped at the border.


Our thought at the time was that two powerful religious figures like the Pope and Dalai Lama would have no trouble entering Baghdad. Their very presence there would have blocked such an attack, saved hundreds of thousands of human lives and perhaps altered the almost hopeless situation that has since developed in the Middle East.


Ours was but a small voice in the wilderness and those who read or heard of the idea may have considered it a joke. When we made the suggestion, however, we were very serious. The tragedy is that these two men may have been the only ones living in 2001 with enough international influence to have stopped Bush from carrying out his insane plan. That neither man failed to raise a finger to save the people of Iraq will forever remain a great tragedy.


Can the Dalai Lama save the people of Tibet from a similar fate at the hands of the Chinese military? We wholeheartedly encourage the attempt.