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

Brown Should Be Meeting The Dalai Lama In Downing Street

May 21, 2008

The Lambeth Talk
The Times (UK)
May 21, 2008

The Dalai Lama arrived in Britain yesterday at the start of an 11-day
visit intended as much to spread the message of Buddhism as to
campaign for the cultural autonomy of his native Tibet. His visit has
attracted predictable controversy. A few exiled Tibetans, angry at
his opposition to their strident anti-Chinese line, were preparing
protests. A far larger group, outraged by the refusal of Gordon Brown
to receive him at Downing Street, were bitterly scathing of what they
saw as the Prime Minister's political cowardice and attempt to
appease Beijing. And China reiterated its denunciations of the Dalai
Lama's "separatist activities" and warned the West not to use him to
"interfere in China's internal affairs."

China's sensitivity over the man forced into exile 49 years ago and
whose very mention in his homeland incurs severe penalties verges on
the paranoid. The Chinese leadership has blamed him for
single-handedly instigating the anti-Chinese protests two months ago,
for inspiring global demonstrations against the Olympic torch relay,
for whipping up anti-Chinese feeling and for a "splittist" campaign
for Tibetan independence. Beijing has systematically denounced any
Western leader who has met the 72-year-old Tibetan, boycotted every
international gathering at which he has appeared and ordered
political and economic retaliation against those countries where he
has been officially welcomed.

This crude blackmail has occasionally worked. To her credit, Angela
Merkel, the German Chancellor, met the Dalai Lama on his last visit
to Berlin in September. To her shame, the coalition Government
ostentatiously snubbed him this week, allowing only the Development
Minister to meet him informally. Smarting still from the rift that
followed the September meeting, the Germans were determined not to
provoke any further trade backlash. The same threat appears to have
worked in Downing Street. Though both John Major and Tony Blair
invited the Dalai Lama to No 10, Mr Brown insisted that the Nobel
Peace Prize winner was visiting purely in a spiritual capacity, and
he would therefore meet him only at Lambeth Palace.

The decision is a disgrace. It smacks of pusillanimous fudge. It is
appropriate that the Dalai Lama should be received by the Archbishop
of Canterbury: he is, after all, a man of towering spiritual
importance. It is also appropriate, indeed essential, that he should
be accorded proper political respect by the Prime Minister. By trying
to have it both ways, Mr Brown has made himself look ridiculous. It
is in keeping with his late arrival at the Lisbon treaty signing, the
decision to receive but not touch the Olympic torch and his silence
over US proposals to enlarge Nato - a demeaning attempt to sit on the fence.

The Dalai Lama's political importance is beyond dispute. Not only is
he revered throughout his homeland; his conciliatory approach,
political moderation and insistence on Tibet's spiritual and cultural
freedom rather than territorial independence ought to show China how
to reconcile political control with local feeling. His example is a
far cry from the incipient terrorism of separatist Uighurs and in
China's Muslim west; it is one that Beijing could - and should - use
as a template for Taiwan. The world has shown its sympathy for
China's suffering after its terrible earthquake. This is a moment for
Beijing to reach out for the Dalai Lama's Buddhist message of
conciliation. It is not a moment for Downing Street to undercut that
message with a boycott.
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