By Phurbu Thinley
Dharamsala, July 24: Republican presidential candidate John McCain is scheduled to meet with the Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama on Friday in Colorado, according to media reports.
The two will meet in Aspen, where the Dalai Lama plans to address a symposium on Tibetan culture and its impact on global issues, the McCain campaign reportedly said Thursday.
"I have been a great admirer of the Dalai Lama," McCain was reportedly quoted as saying today while campaigning in Columbus, Ohio. He called him a "transcendent national role model."
In March, after China cracked down on monks demonstrating in Tibet, McCain urged the Chinese government to open a "genuine dialogue" with the Dalai Lama, whom he called "a man of peace who reflects the hopes and aspirations of Tibetans," and urged the release of monks detained for "peacefully expressing their views" and "full outside access" to Tibet.
In response, the Dalai Lama sent a letter to McCain, thanking him for "concern you have shown regarding the sad turn of events in Tibet and for your efforts to persuade the Chinese authorities to exercise restraint in dealing with the demonstrations."
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to speak at the Aspen Institute on Saturday.
The Dalai Lama has been based in India since fleeing his Himalayan homeland in 1959 amid a failed uprising against Chinese rule.
Despite persistent efforts to demonize him by Beijing, calling him a "separatist" seeking to “split China”, the Tibetan leader insists he wants "real and meaningful autonomy," not independence for Tibet,
The Tibet issue has attracted increased attention this year with China hosting the summer Olympics. The Dalai Lama was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in October, in a ceremony attended by President Bush.