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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

'PROBLEMATIC MIXING OF POLITICS AND RELIGION' German Politician Compares Dalai Lama to Ayatollah Khomeini

April 5, 2008

By Björn Hengst

A German Left Party politician has caused controversy with a speech in
which she indirectly compared the Dalai Lama to Iran's Ayatollah
Ruhollah Khomeini. She also claims the Dalai Lama represents the
"deification of political power."

Christiane Schneider: "I have never understood the broad veneration for
the Dalai Lama here in Germany."
Public Address

Christiane Schneider: "I have never understood the broad veneration for
the Dalai Lama here in Germany."
Politicians from Germany's main political parties have condemned a
member of the far-left Left Party after she compared the Dalai Lama to
Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Christiane Schneider, the deputy floor leader for the Left Party in
Hamburg's state assembly, sparked controversy with a speech she gave to
the assembly Wednesday on the issue of how China is dealing with the
ongoing Tibet crisis.

"A black-and-white depiction of the terrible events in Tibet and a
one-sided partisan view of things is neither appropriate nor helpful,"
she said. She paid tribute to China and its efforts to open up the
country by bidding to host the Olympic Games.

"The People's Republic of China freed itself from the humiliation of
colonial dependence on foreign imperialists through a long war,"
Schneider continued. She also said she was unable to share the "lack of
preconditions with which the Green Party is calling for solidarity with

Then came the most controversial passage: "In recent decades, the
international community has not had many good experiences with religious
leaders who are forced into politics as representatives of opposition
movements in society. I remember, for example, Khomeini."

Schneider's comments provoked angry reactions in the state assembly.
Members of the conservative Christian Democratic Union, the center-left
Social Democratic Party and the Green Party all condemned her remarks.

SPD floor leader Michael Neumann left the room in protest during
Schneider's speech. Left Party members in Hamburg have "let their mask
fall," Neumann told SPIEGEL ONLINE. "They have proven that they have not
yet embraced democracy," he added, in a reference to the Left Party's
role as the successor to the East German Communist Party. He said he was
"speechless": "You can't compare the terror regime in Iran with the
Dalai Lama."

Other Left Party members also condemned Schneider's remarks. "Comparing
the Dalai Lama with Khomeini is not acceptable," Bodo Ramelow, deputy
floor leader for the Left Party in the German parliament, the Bundestag,

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was the political leader of the 1979 Islamic
revolution in Iran and was the country's Supreme Leader until 1989. With
the help of his Revolutionary Guards, Khomeini had members of the
monarchy and opposition imprisoned after the fall of the Shah's regime
in 1989. Many people were executed as a result.

The Dalai Lama, who fled into exile from Tibet in 1959 and has lived in
Dharamsala, India ever since, has always promoted non-violent resistance
and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Schneider has apologized for her remarks. She told SPIEGEL ONLINE
Thursday that her reference to Khomeini was "unfortunate." "I did not
consider that properly," she said. "I'm sorry."

However Schneider also complained that she was not able to deliver her
full speech in the assembly because of a five-minute time limit.
Otherwise, she said, it would have been clear that she did not want to
compare the Dalai Lama with Khomeini, but rather explain that she found
the "mixing of politics and religion" problematic.

In the original text of her speech, she told SPIEGEL ONLINE, she wanted
to add: "I have personally never understood the broad veneration for the
Dalai Lama here in Germany. The figure -- I am not talking here about
the person, rather about the role -- of the Dalai Lama embodies the
unity of a religious and political leader. It symbolizes the deification
of political power ... and has something thoroughly pre-democratic about

It was only in February that another politician in state parliament
under the auspices of the Left Party caused an uproar. Christel Wegner
-- a member of the German Communist Party who entered Lower Saxony
parliament on the Left Party list in exchange for campaign assistance --
expressed approval of the East German secret police, the Stasi. She also
said that the Berlin Wall was to keep West Germans out of East Germany.
She was jettisoned by the Left Party faction as a result.
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