On October 17, in the presence of President George W. Bush, the U.S. Congress bestowed its highest civilian honor on the Dalai Lama, the Congressional Medal of Honor.
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Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama, drew a standing ovation and beamed throughout the ceremony. Bush called him "a man of faith and sincerity and peace."
"This recognition will bring tremendous joy and encouragement to the Tibetan people," said the Dalai Lama. But he also said that he felt "regret" over tensions with China.
"I believe it is vital for China to have transparency, rule of law and freedom of information. Much of the world is waiting to see how China's concepts of 'harmonious society' and 'peaceful rise' would unfold," he said.
He went on to restate "categorically" that he is not calling for independence: "I am seeking a meaningful autonomy for the Tibetan people within the People's Republic of China [...]Furthermore, I have no intention of using any agreement on autonomy as a stepping stone for Tibet's independence."
While thanking the "American people and their government," he told the audience "your continued support is critical. I thank you once again for the high honor that you have bestowed on me today. Thank you."