As the President prepares to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the world will get another chance to see whether he makes good on past words. In his campaign Obama was clear and unequivocal about Tibet and the human rights of Tibetans. In an open letter to President Bush sent in April 2008 he wrote:
Senator Obama then called for:
"It is important that we give high priority to the plight of Tibetans and make clear to President Hu that the way in which China treats all Chinese citizens, including Tibetans, profoundly affects how China is viewed in the United States and throughout the international community."
"a negotiation with the Dalai Lama about his return to Tibet; guarantees of religious freedom for the Tibetan people; protection of Tibetan culture and language; and the exercise of genuine autonomy for Tibet. That is the path to the stability and harmony that the Chinese leaders say they are seeking in Tibet."
There is no question that there is currently systematic abuse of Tibetan human rights including, but not limited to torture, cultural decimation, repression, lack of legal rights and free speech.
3 Generations just had the opportunity to interview Ngawang Sangdrol, a Tibetan nun who was imprisoned and tortured as a child for peaceful protest. Her story is both harrowing and far from unique.
Watch the video at 3generations.org.
If this meeting is to be more than a token gesture to the Free Tibet lobbies then President Obama will need to initiate some meaningful steps towards ending the deadlock in the negotiations between the Tibetan Government-in-Exile and Beijing. He will also need to make good on his call for religious freedom and autonomy for the people of Tibet and their culture. We can only hope that President Obama will demonstrate the same courage of convictions that Senator Obama demanded of President Bush.