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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."

Sketch: Dalai Lama drama as Westminster sees the light

May 24, 2008

Ann Treneman
The Times (UK)
May 23, 2008

The Dalai Lama arrived at Westminster in a silver Merc accompanied by three other silver Mercs. His Holiness may be close to the heavenly light but he does not travel light. Still, who can blame him, for he had a heavy morning ahead.

He emerged to a sight that would terrify most people: 16 Lib-Dems, all in a row, goggle-eyed at the prospect of meeting the holiest sandal-wearer of them all. Mr Lama giggled his way down the line, bowing so much that he bobbed away like a cork in the sea. Lembit Öpik bowed twice back because he is a creep.

"I heard you on the radio this morning, brushing my teeth!" trilled Nick Clegg as His Holiness tried to hold his hand. Mr Lama thought this hilarious. Mr Clegg smiled sheepishly. They all trooped off for coffee and biscuits.

Poor Mr Lama. After the Lib-Dems, he had to appear before the Foreign Affairs Select Committee chaired by Mike Gapes, also known as His Grovelness. Mr Gapes is a man who worships Labour: he bows to Gordon and no one else -- or so we thought. But the moment he saw Mr Lama, working the crowd who had gathered to see him, Mr Gapes bobbed. "Welcome!" he cried as Mr Lama giggled (possibly at the sight of Mr Gapes bowing, we will never know).

It has to be said that Mr Lama is pure box office. He is the crowd-pleaser to end all crowd-pleasers. He began by getting out the crimson man-bag that he always carries and which I thought contained something sacred or at least the meaning of life.

Like a magician, Mr Lama brought out its contents: first he brandished a crimson visor (it matched his robes perfectly) and placed it at a rakish angle on his shaven head. Then he showed us his spectacles case with great delight. He brought out a tiny cellophane-wrapped item. "A sweetie!" he cried, giggling.

Then he began to ramble. "Sometimes on the aeroplane, breakfast is quite small. I need not only quality but quantity because the Buddhist monk -- no dinner. So I always carry some bread."

It seemed a shame when we had to quit playing "Show Me Your Manbag" and talk about human rights. To start Mr Lama did a lot more bowing (he can bow while he sits). His testimony was powerful if hard to understand. The committee, starstruck, did not interrupt. His Holiness used his voice for all its worth, often switching from his normal low range to squeaky falsetto.

He criticised and praised China, emphasising that he seeks autonomy, not independence, for Tibet. Most answers were long, a series of staccato phrases held together with pauses. But it was the short ones that made the impact. When he was asked if Britain was doing enough to help Tibet, he barked: "Not enough!"

There was a lot of giggling. Indeed, he seemed to find questions about Gordon Brown particularly funny. He did get serious, for a nanosecond, when asked if the PM should meet him at No 10. "For me, no difference. So long as meeting and talk -- that is important. I always meet on the level we are human beings."

One MP noted, of politicians: "We are human beings too!"

At this His Holiness let out an extraordinarily high-pitched giggle. "You are human too!" he cried, laughing like a drain.

Then he was off in a swirl of crimson. I tell you, if he wasn’t a revered spiritual leader, he’d be a great ham actor. He’s a Drama-Lama, that’s for sure.
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