STEVE INSKEEP, Host:
NPR's Michele Kelemen reports.
MICHELE KELEMEN: In his public appearances, the Dalai Lama has avoided talking about the lack of a White House meeting on his schedule. But a former U.S. ambassador to China, Winston Lord, did allude to that during an award ceremony yesterday.
WINSTON LORD: For decades, the Chinese government has sought to keep the world and its own people in the dark about Tibet. The more the Dalai Lama offers a middle way of peace and reconciliation, the more Beijing has vilified him and successfully bullied other governments, including, I'm distressed to say, the United States government.
KELEMEN: Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of trying to split Tibet from China, though the Dalai Lama spoke yesterday about unity and equal rights for minorities in China.
DALAI LAMA: I always love the (unintelligible) unit on the basis of equality.
KELEMEN: His envoy here in Washington, Lodi Gyari, says the Dalai Lama agreed with the White House to put off a meeting until after the president goes to China.
LODI GYARI: We would like the United States, especially, you know, the new president, young president, to be able to have a cooperative relationship with China. And that's one reason that His Holiness wants to be of help in that regard.
KELEMEN: After the White House worked to convince the Dalai Lama to delay the meeting, President Obama sent one of its closest advisors, Valerie Jarrett, to see the Tibetan spiritual leader in India where he lives in exile. Lodi Gyari says that visit showed that the administration is committed to the issues, just trying a different approach.
GYARI: At this case, you know, I am not concerned that we will fall between the cracks.
KELEMEN: This week, in explaining the delay in meeting the Dalai Lama, White House Spokesman Robert Gibbs said the Tibetans understand that they can benefit from a stronger U.S.-China relationship.
ROBERT GIBBS: Our relationship with China, having a strong relationship and a good dialogue with them allows us to talk to them about the cares and concerns of the Tibetan people.
KELEMEN: But activists wonder how forcefully the administration really pursues these issues, and often point to comments that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton made earlier this year on her way to Beijing. She said that she'd press human rights but wouldn't let that interfere with other priorities, such as dealing with the global financial crisis. And she gave a candid view of how such conversations tend to unfold.
HILLARY CLINTON: We're going to press them, you know, to reconsider their position about Tibet and religious and cultural freedom, and autonomy for the Tibetans, and, you know, some kind of recognition or acknowledgment of the Dalai Lama. And we know what they're going to say, because I've had those conversations for more than a decade with Chinese leaders.
KELEMEN: Michele Kelemen, NPR News, Washington.
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