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Dutch PM shirks Dalai Lama

May 24, 2009

By Kalsang Rinchen
May 23, 2009

Dharamsala, May 23 - Dutch Prime Minister Jan
Peter Balkenende will not meet the Dalai Lama
during the Tibetan leader’s upcoming visit to the
Netherlands on 4 and 5 June. The Ducth lawmakers
earlier passed a motion calling on the prime
minister to receive the Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Dutch cabinet has however decided that the
1989 Nobel laureate will be received by Foreign
Minister Maxime Verhagen. The government says the
Prime Minister's presence would add nothing to
the welcome and risk harming relations with
China, according to Radio Netherlands. Responding
to questions from the opposition parties, Mr
Balkenende said it was not just a question of
economic interests and that he was concerned that
such a meeting could damage the "critical
dialogue" he has with China on matters such as human rights.

Opposition MPs, led by the Green Left party,
accused the cabinet of succumbing to Chinese
pressure. China earlier warned Dutch MPs not to
invite the Dalai Lama to visit parliament when he
comes to the Netherlands on June 4 and 5,

Dutch parliamentarians however will welcome the
Dalai Lama to their parliament as announced
earlier despite warning from China that it may
affect ties between the two countries.

A lawmaker for the ruling Christian Democrats
also sharply criticized China's ambassador for
attempting to interfere with Dutch politics. The
Dutch don't interfere with Chinese political
meetings "and we expect the same respect from the
Chinese ambassador," legislator Maarten Haverkamp
was earlier quoted by AP as saying.

China sent military troops to occupy Tibet in
1950 and, nine years later, the Dalai Lama fled
to India. The exiled Tibetan leader is now
seeking a meaningful autonomy for Tibet within
the constitutional framework of the People’s Republic of China.
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