1. It’s the right thing to do.
The Dalai Lama is a Nobel Peace laureate, one of the foremost symbols of nonviolence in the history of humankind and the leader of an ancient nation being violently oppressed by China. Enough said.
2. Shines a global spotlight on Tibet, one of the darkest corners of the world in terms of human rights violations.
China’s brutal policies in Tibet persist in part because Tibet is a black hole of information. The Chinese government bans all journalists, denies entry to international observers and does not let the vast majority of Tibetans leave the country or speak their minds without threat of imprisonment and torture. By meeting with the Dalai Lama world leaders bring much-needed media attention to Tibet that in turn educates the global public about what is happening there.
3. Keeps the pressure on the Chinese leadership about the Tibet issue. Building pressure is about the only thing that makes progress – and eventually, real negotiations – possible.
Every single time a world leader meets with the Dalai Lama Beijing must, in some way, answer for and address its policies in Tibet. This unwelcome attention forces the Chinese Communist Party to prioritize the question of Tibet and, though it may not always be obvious, even mitigate their violent actions and policies in Tibet.
4. Sends a message of hope to Tibetans in Tibet. Without hope, the Tibet issue would have died decades ago.
Think of a time when you may have been unjustly treated or abused. How did you feel when someone tried to help you or offered their sympathy or support? Tibetans are no different from the rest of us. Even if the ultimate political situation in Tibet is complicated and will take time to resolve, all messages of support and solidarity are welcome and provide a much-needed morale boost as Tibetans live their lives facing constant repression.
5. Demonstrates genuine commitment to universal principles of human rights, rather than just paying lip service.
Nearly every global leader talks the talk of the importance of human rights but very few walk the walk. When a head of state meets with the Dalai Lama – especially as the Chinese turn up the pressure on leaders not to do this – he or she demonstrates credibility of leadership with regards to human rights and democracy.
6. Shows young Chinese that Tibet matters, helping make a future resolution more likely.
Winning support for Tibet amongst Chinese citizens is not an easy task but already we can see changes in Chinese attitudes towards Tibetans. Chinese lawyers are speaking out against the official version of events surrounding the widespread protests that rocked Tibet in 2008. More recently, a Chinese film director showed genuine concern for traditional Tibetan life and culture in the Oscar-nominated short film Butter Lamp. As more and more young Chinese become engaged in the international community through the Internet or studies abroad, it is critical that they see global leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama and giving attention and priority to the Tibetan issue.
7. Promotes world peace. The Dalai Lama is the most recognizable icon of nonviolence alive today. There is no better way to promote peace than to encourage nonviolence.
World leaders decry violence and terrorism but what tangible things do they do to promote nonviolence as an alternative way to solve conflict? The Dalai Lama is the living embodiment of nonviolence in the 21st century and by embracing and welcoming him, world leaders send a strong message that they also embrace and support his nonviolent approach to resolving conflict in Tibet and beyond.
8. It’s a show of strength. China is a bully and ultimately respects strength. Standing up to Chinese leaders makes it less likely they will try such tactics in the future.
Giving in to Beijing’s threats and not meeting with the Dalai Lama sends the wrong message to the bully – a message that threats, intimidation and abuse work and are an effective means of control. Rest assured: an empowered Beijing will employ these tactics again because, as an authoritarian regime, its nature is to try to get what it wants by any means necessary.
9. It calls Beijing’s bluff. If all leaders do it, Beijing might complain, but will not be able to challenge or damage relations with all of them.
China huffs and puffs and threatens to blow the house down when a head of state or government receives or meets with the Dalai Lama, but in reality, Beijing can’t afford to undermine economic relations with its trading partners. And certainly not with every major trading partner. So why not put a collective foot down? World leaders could demonstrate real support for human rights and Tibet and, perhaps more importantly, demonstrate their mature and democratic strength in the face of infantile Chinese threats and tantrums, by all agreeing to meet with the Dalai Lama in a given year. This group effort would certainly decrease – if not erase – the risk of any real retaliation by Beijing. 2015 seems a good year to engage in such a strategy as China’s economic outlook grows bleaker by the week.
10. It’s good for their global public image. The Dalai Lama is likely far more popular and recognizable than they are.
Year after year, poll after poll shows the same results – as far as citizens of liberal, developed countries are concerned, the Dalai Lama is one of the most popular and respected world leaders. Here are just a handful of polls and surveys that demonstrate this: