As two Nobel Peace Prize laureates meet in Washington, media observers see US President Barack Obama and the Dalai Lama’s meeting as mainly symbolic. Digital Journal asked his Africa Representative whether this was the case.
Sonam Tenzing, speaking on the telephone from the Office of Tibet in Pretoria, said this meeting really matters to Tibetans:
It makes (the) Tibetan people extremely encouraged to see their revered leader meeting international figures. The Tibetan people are fully aware that action can be taken against them, but this meeting with President Obama is an encouragement in itself.
The people inside Tibet have welcomed (the) meeting of His Holiness with the American President. People of the Amdo region of Tibet, where His Holiness was born, in order to show their excitement and feeling of encouragement, have engaged in invoking the deities of Tibet that the meeting would be successful.
Although the BBC and other media sources pointed out that President Obama would meet the Dalai Lama in the White House Map Room and not the more formal Oval office, the exiled leader’s representative felt this was of little importance. He said:
I’m sure our Tibetan friends wouldn’t attach so much significance to where the meeting took place. What is important is that there is a genuineness and sincerety expressed by the participants.
During our interview, I asked Tenzing how the President of the United States could help the Tibetan people, considering the growing economic and military might of the People’s Republic of China? Tenzing stressed that:
The American people and Administration consider human rights abuses quite seriously, and it does help the Tibetan people on the ground. Having their human rights, these are part of the people’s aspirations.
Tenzing also pointed to the ongoing quiet diplomacy that went on behind the scenes. Lodi Gyari led the last official visit of the Dalai Lama’s representatives between Jan. 26, 2010 and Feb. 1.