By William Brand,
OAKLAND — When President Bush handed the Dalai Lama the Congressional Gold Medal on Wednesday, the Bay Area Tibetan community applauded.
Some took the day off so they could watch the presentation on TV. A few even made the trek to Washington to greet the 72-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader when he emerged from the Capitol.
"There are tons of people here on the lawn of the Capitol," said one of those who made the trek — Tenzin Dickyi, a University of California, Davis, student whose parents live in Oakland.
"I think it's amazing that President Bush stood up for us and stood up to the Chinese government," Dickyi said in a cell phone interview. "It was a very nice thing to do, and everybody here was overjoyed. People are calling other people and laughing and cheering."
In El Cerrito, Lobsang Dhondup took the day off so he could watch TV coverage.
"It's wonderful," he said. "I'm so happy. It makes me optimistic."
Gyurmey Tsering, general counsel for the Tibetan Association of Northern California, called the Bush-Dalai Lama appearance a great moment for Tibetans. "This is going to be real stepping stone for freedom for Tibet," Tsering said. "I'm very, very happy, it's not just me, but for Tibetans everywhere — this is a great moment.
"I'm delighted to see the American people are supporting us," he said.
Samten Chinkarlaprang, owner of the Cafe Tibet at 2020 University Ave. in Berkeley, said she stayed home to watch the presentation on TV. The report was just two minutes long, but it was important, she said.
"The Dalai Lama is an amazing man, he goes all over the world, meets with different leaders," she said. "He never says China is our enemy. He is one of the most peaceful and kind persons in the world. I say thank you to Mr. George Bush."
Chinkarlaprang was born in Tibet but fled in 1959 with her family after a massive demonstration for a free Tibet was suppressed by the Chinese Army.
Tibetan groups estimate 120,000 Tibetans are living in exile in India and around the world. The Tibetan Association of Northern California estimates more than 1,500 live in this area.
Tenzin Tsephen of Oakland, a former president of the Tibetan Association, called the presentation by Bush a very bold move.
"China is a giant. Myself, I'm a Democrat and I'm not going to vote Republican, but President Bush did the right thing and we really support him," he said. "It was a very symbolic move and it's right to support the truth and truth is on the side of Tibet."