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Gordon Brown appeases Chinese by barring Dalai Lama from No 10

May 13, 2008

Sam Coates
The Times (UK)
May 12, 2008

Gordon Brown will not receive the Dalai Lama in Downing Street in an effort to avoid confrontation with China over Tibet, The Times has learnt.

The Prime Minister will, instead, see the Tibetan spiritual leader in Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, enabling him to claim to the Chinese that he is receiving the Dalai Lama in a spiritual rather than political capacity.

The decision has been criticised by William Hague, the Shadow Foreign Secretary, and Sir Menzies Campbell, the former Liberal Democrat leader, and dismayed supporters of the Dalai Lama, who have written to Mr Brown calling him to reconsider the decision.

Last night Downing Street confirmed the decision not to meet His Holiness Tenzin Gyatso in No 10.

"As he said in Parliament, the Prime Minister intends to see the Dalai Lama. What is important is that they are meeting and will have a substantive conversation. It is also significant that the Chinese are engaging directly with representatives of the Dalai Lama," a spokesman said. Asked why the meeting was in Lambeth Palace, the spokesman said: "He is a spiritual representative and it makes sense for the Prime Minister to meet with him." A number of other spiritual leaders are expected to be present at the meeting on May 23.

Both Tony Blair and John Major saw the Dalai Lama in Downing Street. Angela Merkel became the first German head of state to meet him last September, while President Bush received him at the White House and presented him with the Congressional Gold Medal. Mr Brown’s decision has been attacked by Sir Menzies as the "Lisbon Treaty" approach to the meeting.

"There is no reason why he should not see the Dalai Lama at No 10, and the suspicion must be that he is responding to the Chinese Government," he said.

Mr Hague told The Times: "The Prime Minister should be prepared to meet all leaders in Downing Street."

Sources close to David Cameron said that the move was typical of Mr Brown. "He seems completely incapable of making a decision and sticking to it," the source said.

The Dalai Lama’s 11-day visit to Britain begins on May 20 and will include political as well as spiritual events, including taking part in a hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee.

There have been some signs for optimism over Tibet in recent days. Representatives of the Dalai Lama met deputy ministers from the Chinese Government in the southern Chinese city of Shenzhen for the first time since last July and since violence broke out in Tibet in March. Both sides spoke positively about the talks, but no agreement was reported.

The Free Tibet Campaign has called on the Prime Minister to reconsider and to invite the Dalai Lama to No 10.
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