Two years ago in October, the Dalai Lama became the 146th recipient of the Congressional Gold Medal, with President George W. Bush seated beside him at the award ceremony.
But this October, President Barack Obama will shun the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate when he makes his scheduled visit to the U.S.
Obama adviser Valerie Jarrett recently traveled to Dharamsala, the Dalai Lama's place of exile in India, to deliver the message that the Tibetan monk will not be welcomed at the White House.
The Dalai Lama is lauded in much of the world as a figure of moral authority, but China demonizes him and claims he seeks to destroy China's sovereignty by pushing for independence for Tibet.
"A lot of nations are adopting a policy of appeasement" toward China, Samdhong Rinpoche, prime minister of Tibet's government in exile, said after Jarrett delivered the news.
"I understand why Obama is not meeting with the Dalai Lama before his Chinese trip" scheduled for November. "It is common sense. Obama should not irritate the Chinese leadership."
Rinpoche may be understanding, but Michael Gerson of the Washington Post takes issue with Obama's decision in an article headlined "A Cold Shoulder to Liberty."
He writes: "Every president needs room for diplomatic maneuvering. But rebuffing the Dalai Lama is part of a pattern...
"Support for Iranian democrats has been hesitant. Overtures to repressive governments in Iran, Cuba, North Korea, Venezuela, Syria and Egypt have generally ignored the struggles of dissidents and prisoners in those nations.
"So far, the Obama era is hardly a high point of human rights solidarity."
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