Falling short of calling US President Barack Obama’s decision not to meet with His Holiness the Dalai Lama in Washington last month a mistake, top Republican Senator John McCain today said he would have met the Tibetan spiritual leader if he were president.
Senator McCain, who lost to President Obama in the last year's presidential elections, told CNN "I can't say it was a mistake. I have to give the President the benefit of the doubt," but “I would have met with His Holiness.”
Senator McCain also criticised the new administration for adopting a softer approach on human rights, saying, “I don't think that the Secretary of State should have said, before she went on her first visit to China, that 'We're not going to talk about human rights'".
Senator McCain met with His Holiness on July 28, 2008. He discussed Tibet issues during their 45-minute meeting and told reporters, “I'm so disappointed by repeated statements by Chinese officials that ascribe to the Dalai Lama views and actions divorced from what he actually represents. Such rhetoric doesn't serve a cause of peaceful change and reconciliation.".
"I urge the Chinese government to release Tibetan political prisoners, account for Tibetans who have 'disappeared' since protests in March, and engage in meaningful dialogue on genuine autonomy for Tibet."
President Obama begins a tour of Asia on November 12, and is scheduled to meet Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing on November 16 and 17.