Friday, July 15, 2011

Don't Tell Me What I Can't Do

Apologies to Lost's John Locke, but that was my first reaction upon reading this via the BBC:
"China has complained about US President Barack Obama's scheduled meeting on Saturday with exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama".
Excuse me?
I'm sorry, but that's not a thing that China gets to decide in my book. I understand fully the reasons why China does not want the Dalai Lama to be out and about and doing things all the time. I recognize the right of the People's Republic of China to register disapproval of things. But, okay, this is the Dalai Lama:
We're dealing with an old man who is kind of a big deal to a lot of people, a guy who has no violent message. This is what China is scared of, so scared that they're going to demand we not even meet with him? This of course is not an isolated incident, as China historically protests the Dalai Lama's visits to the United States. And every time, it is annoying and stupid that they do so.

The people of Tibet do in fact have a laundry list of grievances against the Chinese government, and while their claims to independent sovereignty may or may not be legitimate, China has also not dealt with them in a particularly kind way. China's record on human rights is not exactly the world's most sterling in general as well, especially when it comes to speech and press rights. So maybe I'm a bit inclined to side with anyone who opposes that sort of system.

But no, most importantly: China does not get to tell us who we can and cannot meet with on an issue like this. It's just out of the question. If the Dalai Lama wants to come here, and speak his message, then it is wholly in keeping with the American tradition that we allow him to do so. What are we if we bow to China's demand on this? Can we say that we stand for freedom of expression and human rights if we allow another state to quash this sort of speech? I say no. And historically, that has been what the United States has done. Let's hope that tradition continues.

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