Tibet’s spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Wednesday celebrates his 76th birthday in Washington on a visit in which he will offer spiritual teachings to thousands and meet top US lawmakers.Tibetan and local well-wishers cheered on the Dalai Lama as he arrived Tuesday at his Washington hotel, the latest international stop for the Nobel Prize-winning monk who shows no sign of slowing down his travel at his age.China opposes any international meetings with the Dalai Lama and the White House has declined comment on whether President Barack Obama will meet the Tibetan spiritual leader during his nearly two weeks in the US capital.
A congressional aide, who asked not to be identified, said House Speaker John Boehner will meet the Dalai Lama at his office Thursday and House Democratic Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi will attend.Under the Constitution, Boehner is the third highest-ranking US official. Pelosi is a longtime critic of China on human rights ground and has met frequently in the past with the Dalai Lama.Maria Otero, the undersecretary of state for democracy and global affairs who acts as the special coordinator for Tibet issues, met the Dalai Lama upon his arrival at the airport, a State Department official said.
Organizers expect up to 10,000 people to flock to an arena in downtown Washington as the Dalai Lama leads a 10-day Buddhist ritual known as the Kalachakra, in which practitioners meditate and pray for world peace.This Kalachakra marks the first in more than five years. It was last held in India, where the Dalai Lama has lived in exile since 1959.Obama received the Dalai Lama last year, but only away from cameras in the White House’s private residence. China nonetheless protested, as did a number of US lawmakers who denounced what they considered disrespect toward the religious leader.The US president also faced criticism at home in 2009 when he did not meet the Dalai Lama during a visit by the monk to Washington. White House aides worried a meeting would have soured Obama’s first trip to China later that year.
At a congressional hearing last month, lawmakers from both major US parties urged Obama to show strong support for the Dalai Lama and to meet him on his current visit.The Dalai Lama denies China’s charges that he is a separatist and says he is seeking greater autonomy for Tibetans under Beijing’s rule. While he remains the clear face of Tibet to the world, he recently said he was giving up his political role to focus on spiritual duties.Tibetans earlier this year elected Harvard academic Lobsang Sangay as head of the government-in-exile. Sangay, in an opinion article published Monday in The Washington Post, said his election showed Beijing “that leadership of the Tibetan freedom movement has been entrusted to a younger generation.”
“Instead of hosting indicted war criminals such as Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir in the Great Hall, Beijing’s leadership has a golden opportunity to prove its sincerity, garner goodwill and improve the image of China if it would, as the Dalai Lama devolved his political authority, devolve its power to Tibetans to resolve the issue of Tibet,” Sangay wrote.China, to the dismay of human rights groups, last week hosted Bashir even though the International Criminal Court has issued a warrant for his arrest on charges including genocide in the conflict in Darfur. – Yahoonews