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Dalai Lama to address Parliament

May 22, 2008

BBC News
May 21, 2008

The Dalai Lama is due to address MPs amid criticism of the decision not to give him a 10 Downing Street reception.

Prime Minister Gordon Brown will instead meet the Tibetan spiritual leader with the Archbishop of Canterbury at Lambeth Palace.

Ex-Lib Dem leader Sir Menzies Campbell said Mr Brown wanted it both ways, "to see him and not offend the Chinese".

A Downing Street spokesman said the prime minister would hold a one-on-one meeting with the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama, who is also the leader of Tibet's government-in-exile, is in the UK on a 10-day visit.

He will address members of both houses of parliament prior to a meeting with the media.

Mr Brown will raise the issue of Tibetan human rights in China during the private meeting on Friday, it is understood.

There is no reason why he should not be received at Number 10 -- Sir Menzies Campbell

Critics have said that the government is attempting to appease Beijing by emphasising the Dalai Lama's spiritual rather than his political role.

Sir Menzies added: "Treating the Dalai Lama as only a religious leader simply ignores the reality.

"There is no reason why he should not be received at Number 10."

Protests at his visit are expected from a variety of groups, with Scotland Yard having planned "appropriate" policing.

The Tibetan spiritual leader will also give evidence on human rights to a parliamentary committee during his trip.

Demonstrators are expected to target his speech at the Albert Hall on Thursday as well as his meeting with Mr Brown.

He is also due to meet Conservative leader David Cameron.

On Tuesday he received an honorary doctorate from London Metropolitan University.

LONG-STANDING DISPUTE

During an address, the Dalai Lama criticised China's "one-sided" education system in Tibet, but otherwise largely avoided politics.

The visit, and particularly questions over where and whether he should meet Mr Brown, has proved controversial.

China and Tibet have long disagreed over the status of Tibet, and China sent troops into the region to enforce a territorial claim in 1950.

Anti-China protests led by Buddhist monks began in the capital Lhasa on 10 March this year and gradually escalated into rioting.

The demonstrations took place after the anniversary of the 1959 uprising and ahead of the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.

China says at least 19 people were killed by the rioters, but Tibetan exiles say dozens of people were killed by the Chinese security forces as they moved to quell the unrest.

Beijing says the Dalai Lama incited the violence, which he denies and accuses the Chinese government of human rights abuses.

China says Tibet has officially been part of the Chinese nation since the mid-13th Century and so should continue to be ruled by Beijing.

Many Tibetans disagree, pointing out that the Himalayan region was an independent kingdom for many centuries, and that Chinese rule over Tibet has not been constant.
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