U.S. President George W. Bush (L) looks at the Capitol Rotunda with Dalai Lama during the presentation of the Congressional Gold Medal to Dalai Lama at a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda on Capitol Hill in Washington October 17, 2007. REUTERS/Larry Downing (UNITED STATES)
New York, October 17, 2007 - In what turned out to be the strongest and direct ever message to Beijing to engage in serious talks with the exiled Tibetan leader about the future of Tibet, the United States Congress and President Bush in one voice urged the Chinese leadership to invite His Holiness the Dalai Lama for ‘substantive dialogue’.
The official award ceremony at the Rotunda marked a historic event for the Tibetan people and all freedom loving people of the world. Hundreds of Tibetans, Buddhists from all Himalayan regions and supporters gathered in Washington DC to celebrate the conferment of the country’s highest civilian honor on His Holiness the Dalai Lama.
President Bush in his address to the house said that his country can not turn a blind eye to religious repression in any part of the world. He urged the Beijing leadership to welcome the Dalai Lama to China.
“They will find this good man as a man of peace and reconciliation,” said Bush.
“Today we honor him as a universal symbol of peace, keeper of the flame for his people.”
His Holiness in his acceptance speech said that the award sends a powerful message to those individuals who are dedicated to peace and nonviolence.
“The consistency of American support for Tibet has not gone unnoticed in China where this has caused some tension in the US-China relations; I feel a sense of regret. Today, I wish to share with you all my sincere hope that future of Tibet and China will move beyond mistrust on a relationship based on mutual respect, trust and recognition of common interest.”
His Holiness said he believed that today’s economic success of India and China with long history of rich culture is most deserving and that both these countries are poised to play important leading role on world stage.
In order to fulfill this role, His Holiness said, it is vital for China to have transparency, rule of law and freedom of information. “Much of the world is waiting to see how China’s concepts of harmonious society and peaceful rights would unfold.”
Pressing the importance of Tibet for the peace between India and China, he said, “Being situated between India and China, the peaceful resolution of the Tibetan problem also has important implications for lasting peace and friendly relations between these two great neighbors.”
The 72 year old Nobel Laureate said the equality and rights of the different nationalities of China to maintain their distinct identities are crucial. “With respect to my own homeland Tibet, today many people, both from inside and outside, feel deeply concerned about the consequences of the rapid change taking place.”
On the future of Tibet, His Holiness said that he is “not seeking independence, I am seeking a meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people within the People’s Republic of China. If the real concern of the Chinese leadership is the unity and stability of PRC, I have fully addressed their concern. I have chosen to adopt this position because I believe, given the obvious benefits especially in economic development, this would be in the best interest for the Tibetan people.”
“Furthermore, I have no intention of using any agreement on autonomy as a stepping stone for Tibet’s independence. I have conveyed these thoughts to successive Chinese leaders and in particular, following the renewal of the current contact with the Chinese government in 2002, I have explained these in detail through my envoys. Despite all this, Beijing continues to allege that my hidden agenda is separation and restoration of Tibet’s old socio-political system. Such a notion is unfounded and untrue.”
His Holiness also said that his decision not to accept any political office in Tibet is final.
Thanking the US President the Tibetan leader said, “I am deeply grateful to you for your sympathy and support for Tibet and your firm stand on religious freedom and the cause of democracy.”
“I am deeply touched that this great honor has been given to me,” His Holiness said.
His Holiness also thanked the people and government of the United States for their continued support saying that their support to Tibet is very critical.
After the ceremony, His Holiness and speaker Nancy Pelosi arrived to witness the gathering of Tibetans and supporters who had been waiting outside the Capitol Rotunda to congratulate their charismatic leader with a day-long program of entertainment. Richard Gere, representing the International Campaign for Tibet, welcomed His Holiness and Pelosi, who also received a souvenir of a Tibetan Stupa from Mr Tashi Wangdi, Representative of His Holiness in Americas, Mr. Tenzin Choeden, member of Tibetan parliament for North America and Mr. Lodi Gyari, Special Envoy of His Holiness in Americas, in recognition of her longtime support to the Tibet issue.
His Holiness also addressed the gathering and thanked all his supporters. He told the gathering that their support to Tibet is not just pro-Tibet but pro-truth.