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China removes accreditation from University of Calgary after Dalai Lama honour

February 5, 2010

By Gwendolyn Richards
The Calgary Herald (Canada)
February 4, 2010

CALGARY -- The Chinese government has removed the
University of Calgary from its list of accredited
institutions -- a move school officials are
concerned is connected to the Dalai Lama's visit last fall.

The university hosted the Tibetan spiritual
leader and awarded him an honourary degree when
he visited the city in September.

In December, officials were made aware the
Chinese government had removed the university
from a list posted on the Ministry of Education's website.

Now the university is trying to see what impact
that will have on Chinese nationals who have
already obtained a degree or are working toward one at the institution.

"Our biggest concern is we don't want to
disadvantage current or prospective students or
our alumni," university spokeswoman Colleen Turner said Wednesday.

The Chinese government has made no official
communication to the university indicating what it has done or why.

The university learned of the move late last year
after an employee in the international student
centre and a handful of students raised the
issue. They did not indicate to the university
how they heard about the move, Turner said.

While there has been no confirmation the sanction
is a result of the university's involvement in
the Dalai Lama's visit, Turner said the
university is concerned there is a link.

A spokeswoman with the Chinese consulate in
Calgary would not respond to questions about why
the government removed the university's name,
saying only cryptically that the U of C "should know."

The Herald has learned officials from the Chinese
consulate in Calgary met with university
representatives in April when they outlined they
did not want the Dalai Lama on the campus and
they were against him being awarded an honorary degree.

The spiritual leader did not go to the campus,
but was given an honorary doctor of laws at the
start of the two-day conference on Sept. 30.

He has been awarded more than 25 honorary degrees
from institutions around the world, including the
University of British Columbia, Simon Fraser
University and University of Toronto and others
in the U.S., Italy, Australia and Germany.

"We knew at the time the decision to bring in the
Dalai Lama would not be without controversy. All
of that said, the decision to bring in the Dalai
Lama was not intended to dishonour or disvalue
our relationship with our Chinese partners or the
Chinese community," Turner said.

The university currently has about 600 students
from mainland China and Hong Kong.
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