U.S.

Congress, Bush Give Dalai Lama Gold Medal

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The Dalai Lama of Tibet stands with President Bush Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi i

The Dalai Lama of Tibet stands with President Bush Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during a ceremony to award the Tibetan spiritual leader the Congressional Gold Medal in the Rotunda of the Capitol. Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images hide caption

toggle caption Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images
The Dalai Lama of Tibet stands with President Bush Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi

The Dalai Lama of Tibet stands with President Bush Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi during a ceremony to award the Tibetan spiritual leader the Congressional Gold Medal in the Rotunda of the Capitol.

Tim Sloan/AFP/Getty Images

The Dalai Lama, the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhists, received the Congressional Gold Medal for his work with peace and human rights in a ceremony in the Capitol Rotunda. President Bush presented the medal at a congressional ceremony.

The honor brought protests from China, which considers the exiled monk a Tibetan separatist.

Of those protests, President Bush said, "I have consistently told the Chinese that religious freedom is in their nation's interest. I've also told them that I think it's in their interest to meet with the Dalai Lama."

At the ceremony, the Dalai Lama also responded to the criticism, saying that he does not see autonomy for Tibet as a stepping-stone toward eventual independence.

The Congressional Gold Medal is the highest civilian award bestowed by American lawmakers.

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