Wednesday, October 17, 2007
DALAI LAMA RECEIVES AMERICA'S HIGHEST CIVILIAN AWARD
enzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama of Tibet will today receive the highest civilian honour bestowed by the United States, the Congressional Gold Medal. In a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda, President Bush will present this medal in recognition of his "contributions to peace, non-violence, human rights and religious understanding."
On the obverse of the medal, Dalai Lama is depicted in the foreground of his beloved Himalaya mountains. At least he can still see them from his home in exile.
He was 24 years old when he fled the Tibetan plateau in 1959, with the "People's Liberation Army" in hot pursuit right up to the Indian border. Within hours of his surreptitious escape from the Norbulingka Summer Palace in Lhasa, the PLA bombarded the compound with mortars, killing many monks. They later turned over each body looking for their target, but he had escaped their grasp.
On the reverse of the medal is a stylized lotus blossom, a symbol of purity significant to all Buddhists. The inscription above the flower reads:
I like it. Surely many people watching the ceremony will also be thinking of the courageous Buddhist monks of Burma, and the awe-inspiring images of them in their tens of thousands last month, walking purposefully in a satyagraha for compassion and loving kindness. It's a context which will be impossible to ignore, and one that also gives the Chinese regime nightmares.World peace must develop from inner peace.
Peace is not the absence of violence.
Peace is the manifestation of human compassion.
There is no closer comparison to what the Burmese military did to the Buddhist sangha and its own citizens last month (and is still continuing), than the brutal communist suppression of Tibetan monks, nuns and the entire Tibetan people over the past half century. Raiding monasteries, mass arrests and mass killing (many thousands of Lhasans were slaughtered in the uprising of 1959) -- the only thing the Burmese regime hasn't done which the Chinese did, was bomb the monasteries from the air.
View a continuously updated photo gallery of the events honouring Dalai Lama.
China is furious.
"We are furious," Tibet's Communist Party boss, Zhang Qingli, told reporters in China. "If the Dalai Lama can receive such an award, there must be no justice or good people in the world."Got news for you, buddy. He is the embodiment of good people in the world, and of justice for his own people.
Chinese communists always feign injury and insult when this spiritual leader travels anywhere away from his place of exile, in the foothills of the Indian Himalayas. They pressure foreign governments not to let him in, not to meet him, not to allow him any activities -- threatening all sorts of retaliation in response. Yet they always accuse others of "interfering in internal affairs."
Foreign Ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao demanded that the United States "correct its mistakes and cancel relevant arrangements and stop interfering in the internal affairs of China." China has pulled out of a scheduled strategy session on Iran, unwilling to sit down with US officials on the same day the administration and Congress were honouring the man they hate most. Last month Germany got similar treatment after Chancellor Angela Merkel held a meeting with the spiritual leader, and Canada's granting of honorary citizenship to Dalai Lama last year earned a similar protest.
Chinese government spokespersons had earlier denigrated the honour of the "so-called award," referring to it as the "so-called Congressional Gold Medal." Is this not insulting to the United States, and one of its highest honours?
The Dalai Lama, after meeting privately Tuesday with President Bush, brushed off China's furious reaction to U.S. celebrations this week in his honor. "That always happens," the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet's Buddhists said with a laugh, speaking to reporters gathered outside his downtown Washington hotel.He speaks the truth. It does always happen.
When asked if he had a message for Chinese President Hu Jintao, the Dalai Lama playfully patted a reporter on the cheek and said, "You are not a representative of Hu Jintao."But the shrieking continued, as Chinese officials seem to have no idea how childish they appear.
He said that during their meeting, he explained to Bush what was happening in Tibet and said he thanked the president for "showing his concern about Tibet."
"We know each other, and we have developed, I think, a very close friendship — something like a reunion of one family," the Dalai Lama said, speaking of Bush.
"We solemnly demand that the U.S. cancel the extremely wrong arrangements," said Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. "It seriously violates the norm of international relations and seriously wounded the feelings of the Chinese people and interfered with China's internal affairs."A resolution passed by the entire US Congress, which is elected by the entire American people, with virtually unanimous agreement of all political parties (how often does that happen?), is labelled "extremely wrongful" by an unelected regime that doesn't believe in democracy. Precious. Similar to this Party's decree, which took effect last month, declaring that Tibetan lamas will not be permitted to reincarnate without the express approval and endorsement of the avowedly atheist organisation, the Communist Party of China. His Holiness has said that if he dies while there is still no religious freedom in Tibet, he will choose reincarnation in exile. Some great lamas can do that, according to Tibetan Buddhist belief.
Chinese state media on Wednesday declared the U.S. "must be held responsible for the consequences."
"We are not willing to see damage done to relations between the two countries, but this event will certainly cast a shadow over the relations," the official China Daily newspaper said in an unsigned editorial.
Back in Tibet, the Chinese are worried. When Dalai Lama addressed the US Congress in 1987, and again when he received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, repression became more severe and arrests increased in occupied Tibet. Currently, the Chinese insecurities are manifest by another tightening of controls.
According to confirmed information received by the Tibetan Centre for Human Rights and Democracy (TCHRD), the Chinese authorities of Lhasa City on 15 October issued an official order stating students and Tibetan employees in the government to refrain from seeking leave from their schools and office or participate in customary Sangsol ritual (incense burning ceremony that involve offering tsampa in the air for success and good fortune) this week or face expulsion from school, salary cut and even termination of their job...Celebrations are to be expected, when one so universally loved in his beleaguered homeland is honoured abroad -- something his own people are not permitted to do.
According to confirmed information, an official notice was issued by the Lhasa City government office to all the heads of neighborhood committee directing people under their respective area to refrain from taking part in any religious activities such as customary observance of Sangsol, holding group prayer at the monastery or any act of revelry this week in the light of US Congressional Gold Medal Award Ceremony for the Dalai Lama to be held in Washington DC on 17 October 2007. The regulation and control over monasteries in the surrounding areas of Lhasa City are intensified more than it had been in the past.
John Ackerly, president of the International Campaign for Tibet, wrote an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal yesterday.
The Party still imprisons anyone who speaks out against Chinese rule in Tibet; brutally tortures detainees as a method of intimidating the local population; limits the number of monks and nuns in each monastery and controls who is admitted -- and who should be expelled. In recent weeks in eastern Tibet, Chinese authorities have stepped up a political campaign requiring Tibetan monks, nuns, laypeople and children to denounce their religious leader in exile.Lodi Gyari, who is a former diplomat for the Tibetan government in exile and now the head of the Tibetan delegation in ongoing but sporadic contacts with the Chinese government, believes this event will send an unambiguous message to China that Tibet is not forgotten.
China is also working to tighten its grip over Tibetan Buddhism, asserting in July that only the Communist Party can recognize monks as reincarnations. Tibetans believe that when some learned or important monks pass away, such as the Dalai Lama, they are reincarnated and recognized through a series of esoteric Tibetan rituals and traditions. So for an atheist Party to promulgate such a rule is akin to heresy, or worse.
The Dalai Lama's special envoy, Lodi Gyari, said images of the U.S. president standing beside the Dalai Lama at the congressional ceremony will send a clear message that "people do care about Tibet. We have not been forgotten."Tibetans will be celebrating, and will feel pride for their country and the figure who symbolizes it. They may be forced to celebrate behind closed doors, and some may even choose to defy the authorities with public displays of joy. Lets hope the Chinese tyrants can control themselves this time.
"I have no doubt this will give tremendous encouragement and hope to the Tibetan people," he told reporters ahead of the visit. It also "sends a powerful message to China that the Dalai Lama is not going to go away."
It would have been wonderful if the Nobel committee had awarded the 2007 prize to Burma's monks, for there was certainly no greater expression of the human will to freedom in this year. I don't see how Mr. Gore could ever come close to that. The timing would have been perfect and the committee could have restored some of its own honour in the process, with the only Nobel laureate currently imprisoned for a freedom struggle, Aung San Suu Kyi, being held by the very tyrants who murdered so many of those monks.