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Only one Finnish minister likely to meet with Dalai Lama

August 17, 2011

According to the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China, meeting with Dalai Lama would harm relations between Finland and China

By Petja Pelli
      When the exiled spiritual and former political leader of Tibet, the Dalai Lama, arrives in Finland on August 19th, only one Finnish government minister is likely to meet him, namely Minister for International Development Heidi Hautala (Green League).
      Hautala reported her planned meeting with the Dalai Lama to the late-edition tabloid Ilta-Sanomat in July.
      Despite several attempts, Helsingin Sanomat did not manage to reach Hautala on Monday, as she is on vacation.
      Minister for Foreign Affairs Erkki Tuomioja (SDP) says that he will be in Tallinn at the time of the visit.
      ”After all, it is a private occasion of a spiritual kind”, he argues.
      Tuomioja denies that Finland has any policy concerning meetings with the Dalai Lama.
      ”Everyone can use their discretion. There will be no official meeting”, Tuomioja notes.
The Embassy of the People’s Republic of China has a negative stand on Hautala’s plan to meet the Dalai Lama. Without exceptions, China regards all meetings with the Dalai Lama as interference in their own internal matters.
      ”If this happens, it will hurt the bilateral relations between China and Finland. He [Dalai Lama] is not only a spiritual leader”, says Peng Zhengwu, the Head of the Embassy’s Political Office.
      Tuomioja does not admit that they put any pressure on Finland.
      ”Pressure is a strong word. They have certain views of which we are aware”, Tuomioja notes.
      The minister continues by expressing some criticism against the media.
      ”It is not smart to milk them for statements so much, as naturally they find it [meeting with Dalai Lama] an unfriendly gesture”, Tuomioja adds.
Finnish foreign ministers have always avoided meeting with the Dalai Lama when he has visited Finland.
      In 1996, Tarja Halonen (SDP) said that she could not find time to meet with the spiritual leader, and in 1998 she noted that actually meeting with the Dalai Lama did not belong to the brief of the Minister for Foreign Affairs.
      In 2006, Tuomioja explained to Parliament that the government had not received an invitation to meet the Dalai Lama. According to the organisers, an invitation had been sent.
      When it comes to Members of Parliament, the Green League’s presidential candidate Pekka Haavisto will perhaps meet the Dalai Lama.
      In fact, Haavisto met him already in 1996, when he was Finland’s Minister of the Environment.
      ”The matter was discussed and it was noted that the Minister of the Environment could attend the occasion, as we both had been invited by a third party”, Haavisto recalls.
FACTFILE: This will be the Dalai Lama’s fifth visit to Finland
      His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Tenzin Gyatso, will give a public address at the Barona Arena in the sports park in Espoo’s Tapiola on August 19th.
      The Dalai Lama is a honorary title. Tenzin Gyatso is the 14th Dalai Lama.
      The present Dalai Lama has previously visited Finland on four occasions: in 1988, 1996, 1998, and in 2006.
      In 1996, the spiritual leader of the Tibetan people met with Minister of the Environment Pekka Haavisto, and in 1998 with Minister of Culture Claes Andersson.
      In 2006, none of the Finnish ministers could find time to meet with the Dalai Lama.
Helsingin Sanomat / First published in print 9.8.2011

Previously in HS International Edition:
  Ministers explain absence during recent Dalai Lama visit (6.10.2006)
  Dalai Lama award heightens tensions in Tibetan areas of China (6.11.2007)

See also:
  Dalai Lama says his successor "could even be a Finnish woman" (2.10.2006)

  Dalai Lama (Wikipedia)

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