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Dalai Lama exhibit causes controversy ahead of Chinese Foreign Minister’s visit to Sri Lanka

July 11, 2016

By T. Ramakrishnan

The Hindu, July 9, 2016 - Ahead of the arrival of China’s Foreign Minister Wang Yi in Colombo on Friday evening, a controversy has arisen over an exhibition on the Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, which reportedly took place in Kandy a few days ago.

A section of the media reported that China took an exception to this, but the spokesperson for the Chinese government was not available for comment.

Asked for reaction, Sri Lanka’s Foreign Affairs Ministry spokesperson Mahishini Colonne told The Hindu that she did not know anything about this.

‘Relations affected’

Meanwhile, the Association for Sri Lanka-China Social and Cultural Cooperation, in a letter addressed to Foreign Affairs Secretary Chitranganee Wagiswara, pointed out that the Sri Lanka government had not granted visa to the Dalai Lama on several occasions and that the Chinese government was “firmly opposed” to his “engagement in separatist activities in any country under any name and excuse.”

The Association said the exhibition “indirectly” affected the friendship between the two countries. What apparently complicated the matter was that the official website of the Ministry of Parliamentary Reforms and Mass Media carried a report on the exhibition a week ago in the ‘Latest News’ section. According to the item, an organisation called the Sri Lankan Tibetan Buddhist Brotherhood was behind the event that was planned as a mark of “appreciating the noble mission” of the Dalai Lama.

Acknowledging that the news item should not have been carried, Deputy Minister Karunarathna Paranawithana said it also did not mean that the Ministry was officially connected with the event. But, “people respect the Dalai Lama as a Buddhist leader,” he said.

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