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"Canada can, within a positive friendly atmosphere, ask the Chinese government to resolve the Tibetan situation."

Brown criticised over Dalai Lama meeting

May 14, 2008

Rosalind Ryan and agencies
Guardian (UK)
May 12, 2008

Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, at a press conference in Dharamsala, India

The Dalai Lama at a press conference in India. Photographer: Gurinder Osan/AP

Gordon Brown was today criticised by pro-Tibet campaigners for deciding to hold his upcoming meeting with the Dalai Lama at Lambeth Palace rather than at Downing Street.

Campaigners fear that Brown chose the location to avoid upsetting the Chinese government.

But this was denied by Downing Street. The prime minister's spokesman said today that Lambeth Palace - the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury - was chosen to reflect the fact that the Dalai Lama was a "respected spiritual leader".

The spokesman added: "I think the important point is that the prime minister is meeting the Dalai Lama. Quite where he meets him is not really going to add anything of great substance to the fact of the meeting.

"It's simply worth noting that on the two previous occasions when the Dalai Lama visited the UK he did not have meetings with the then-prime minister."

The Tibetan spiritual leader begins an 11-day visit to the UK later this month and will take part in a number of political and spiritual events.

Downing Street's decision has angered campaigners, who said it was "extremely disappointing", since Tony Blair met the leader in Downing Street in 1999, as did John Major in 1991.

Last year, Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, also received the Dalai Lama in her state office.

"Momentum was built last year with world leaders meeting the Dalai Lama in their own office ­ Merkel fought strongly for her right to do that," says Matt Whitticase from the Free Tibet Campaign.

"Brown's decision fails to build on that momentum and fails to treat the Dalai Lama as the legitimate voice of the Tibetan people. His decision to treat him merely as a religious leader is extremely disappointing."

Protests against Chinese rule in Tibet have followed the path of the Olympic torch on its way to Beijing, while Buddhist monks have been demonstrating in and around the capital of Tibet.

Tibetans living in exile in Nepal and India have also held weeks of protests ­ Nepal recently took the decision to close Mount Everest to climbers while the torch was carried over the peak.
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