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California Democrats hesitate to honor Dalai Lama

March 17, 2009|Eric Bailey
  • The Dalai Lama said life for Tibetans under Chinese rule has been ?hell on earth,? in a speech to mark 50 years since the failed uprising that forced him into exile.
The Dalai Lama said life for Tibetans under Chinese rule has been ?hell on… (Ashwini Bhatia / Associated…)

SACRAMENTO — The California Legislature rarely balks at bloviating en masse during its frequent and normally routine passage of resolutions to honor the dead, herald the past or celebrate the most innocuous of achievements.

But on Monday, the subject of the Dalai Lama was apparently too hot to handle.

Assembly Democrats balked at a resolution to honor Tibet's spiritual leader and mark the 50th anniversary of his people's revolt against Chinese rule, and referred it to a committee. In response, minority Republicans accused them of buckling under to China's communist government.

The resolution's author, Assemblyman Sam Blakeslee (R-San Luis Obispo), claimed that representatives of the Chinese consulate in San Francisco had worked the Capitol hallways to lobby against his measure -- and that the Democrats yielded to the pressure. He released a letter that Consul General Gao Zhansheng sent to state lawmakers warning that the resolution would damage U.S.-Chinese relations.

Zhansheng's letter argues that Tibet was never an independent country and that it was never invaded or occupied by China. In fact, it says, the communist government had pushed through reforms liberating Tibet from "feudal serfdom and theocratic rule."

"As the world economy faces a grim situation, it is all the more important for the most developed country and the biggest developing country in the world to cross the river in a common boat and proceed hand in hand," Zhansheng's letter concludes.

Blakeslee called the letter a "shocking revisionist account of history," and pushed for a floor vote Monday afternoon.

Democrats, saying only that the matter needed further study, referred the resolution to the Assembly Rules Committee.

There, Blakeslee and other Republicans said, it will probably wither and die.

--

eric.bailey@latimes.com

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