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Published: Sunday, 7/24/2011

China's problem

The Dalai Lama, who turned 76 this month, offends China's communist leaders like no one else. He commands no army. He preaches peace and understanding. Yet just by living, he reminds the Chinese of their invasion of Tibet in 1950.

To the Chinese, the Dalai Lama's claim on the hearts of his people subverts their own occupation. Ever since he fled to India from Tibet in 1959, he has been the shadow the Chinese jump at.

While that is China's problem, it shouldn't be America's. While it is U.S. policy not to support what seems to be the lost cause of Tibetan independence, this country does support "the importance of the protection of human rights of Tibetans in China," as President Obama told the Dalai Lama in a White House meeting last week -- a visit Beijing had called on the President to cancel.

As Mr. Obama made clear, a cooperative relationship with China is important, but the United States still can support the preservation of Tibet's religious, cultural, and linguistic history. But even such innocuous, qualified support offends China.

The Dalai Lama has routinely met with U.S. presidents. This was Mr. Obama's second meeting with him in the White House, after unwisely turning down an opportunity to meet early in his term.

The Chinese should be in no doubt -- this nation may be a debtor to them, but they haven't bought the right to veto presidential meetings with anyone.

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