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All-party MPs to visit Dalai Lama

June 8, 2009

Rowan Callick, Asia-Pacific editor

The Australian

June 06, 2009

 

AUSTRALIA'S relationship with China is likely to be strained further in the wake of the collapse of the Rio-Chinalco deal when an all-party parliamentary group meets the Dalai Lama at his headquarters.

 

Labor backbencher Michael Danby will lead the six federal parliamentarians to Dharamsala in north India, where the Dalai Lama will host a reception for them on July 3.

 

On July 6, they will join the public celebration of the Dalai Lama's 74th birthday.

 

The group comprises Liberal MP Peter Slipper, independent senator Nick Xenophon, Labor MP Melissa Parke, and Greens senators Scott Ludlam and Sarah Hanson-Young.

 

It is understood the Chinese embassy in Canberra has already made representations to parliamentary officers to urge that the visit be reconsidered.

 

This first such group from the Australian parliament to visit Dharamsala will meet the Tibetan parliament and cabinet in exile, newly arrived refugees, people who were jailed in China, and Tibetan non-government organisations. Mr Danby, the chairman of the Australian All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, said yesterday: "This is a significant step in Australia's support for a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan situation.

 

"We hope to return with a greater understanding of the Tibetan issue and with new ideas for providing constructive support for Tibet's future."

 

A spokesman for the Tibetan government in exile said this would be the highest-level visit from Australia since the Dalai Lama fled Tibet 50 years ago.

 

The visit follows the collapse last year of a long process of talks between the Chinese Government and representatives of the Dalai Lama.

 

The group will be accompanied to Dharamsala by Ngodup Gyaltsen of the Canberra-based Tibet Information Office, and Simon Bradshaw of the Australia Tibet Council.

 

En route for Dharamsala, the group will visit New Delhi to hold meetings with members of India's newly elected parliament, including members of the foreign relations committee.

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