Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Tibetan Leader Honored in U.S.

His Holiness the Dalai Lama, spiritual and political leader of the Tibetan Nation waves to the crowd in New York.

An official White House photo from the 2003 meeting of His Holiness and President George Bush. The two leaders met again in the same room on Tuesday, (their fourth meeting) undeterred by sabre rattling of the Chinese Communist Party.

Today the United States Congress did a good thing. In a powerful symbolic act, emblematic of the universal spirit of freedom, Congress welcomed the 14th Dalai Lama, born Tenzin Gyatso, into its chamber and awarded him its highest civilian honour - the Congressional Medal. For weeks Communist Chinese officials have been blustering over the planned U.S. recognition of the great Tibetan leader, threatening dire consequences if the Americans honoured their hated adversary. It's too bad the PRC directs so much hostility at a holy man, but we can be sure he bears nothing in his heart but peace and brotherhood for the Chinese people.

There is further trouble on the horizon for the Tibetan people because the Dalai Lama is exhausted and seeks retirement from public life. While the Chinese Communists respect neither his authority, his culture or his religion, they are determined that they, the Communist authority, will choose his successor. We will witness Orwellian political aggression from Beijing in future, when they impose a spiritual leader on the occupied Tibetan people, and the exile community chooses a new leader based on age old cultural practice.

There is a good wiki page on His Holiness which can be found here.

There is a genesis to every political viewpoint we hold, and looking into my own past I do believe that my interest in the Tibetan genocide began in when I read a book by Michel Peissel in the early 1970s. The French bestseller was entitled (the U.S. edition) The Cavaliers of Kham, and it was expose of C.I.A. assistance to the Tibetan freedom fighters in the 1950s. Peissel is a true Runagate, and the book landed him in a deep vat of hot water. I was a junior high school student in Saint John, N.B. and the astonishing account of wholesale executions of Tibetans by murderous regular units of the Chinese army, appalled me.

A few years later I was a student at the University of New Brunswick in Fredericton when St. Thomas university invited the Dalai Lama to visit and to receive an honorary doctorate. It was his first visit to Canada, Oct.-Nov. 1980, starting in Vancouver and ending in Fredericton. (St. Thomas shared our campus on the hill.) As I recall, my mentor Prof. Larry Shyu pulled some strings and arranged for his Asian Studies students to meet with His Holiness for a chat on Tibetan issues. I recall being sly in crafting two questions designed to get him to express outrage at the continuing Chinese occupation of his country. A diplomat as well as a kind heart he deflected each of my clumsy attempts with a smile a hope for peace. His answers, which reflected the quiet strength and resilience of the Tibetan people whom he represented, squashed my plan to write an arresting article for the UNB paper - but he also made a friend. I will always live in the hope of his exiled people being restored to their homeland.

Update: October 29 6:45 pm - Prime Minister Harper receives the Dalai Lama today. Finally a little support for Tibetan Indepence from the Canadian Government. At last! Pleeeeaaase Beijing. Ban our national team from your Olympic Games. That would be sublime.

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