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Australian Lawmakers Visit Dalai Lama in India

July 6, 2009

By Phil Mercer
VOA News July 3, 2009

Chinese government has reacted angrily to a meeting between Australian
lawmakers and the Dalai Lama in India. It's the first time Australian
members of parliament have traveled to the sub-continent to visit the
Tibetan spiritual leader.

The Chinese Embassy in Canberra says the visit of Australian politicians to
the Dalai Lama is a gross case of interference in China's internal affairs.

Tibet's spiritual leader spent more than an hour with members of the first
parliamentary delegation from Australia to visit him in Dharamsala, the
Dalai Lama's home in exile.

He thanked the cross-party group of MPs and senators for their support.
"Usually I describe our supporters, not like pro-Tibetan, but rather
pro-justice," said the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his opposition
to the use of violence in his pursuit of self-rule for Tibet. The Chinese
government, which has controlled the region more than 50 years, says it has
enhanced both living standards and human rights there.

Beijing sees the Dalai Lama as a "splittist," although the Tibetan leader
has stated that his goal is for autonomy for his troubled home rather than
independence.

Some members of the Australian delegation that met with the Dalai Lama in
India hope to travel to Tibet later this year, during an official visit to
China.

Such a plan could again inflame sensitivities between Beijing and Canberra.

Australian lawmaker Michael Danby says he thinks that assurances have been
given to Canberra by the Chinese to allow the planned trip to go ahead.

"If the parliament asks the Chinese government to allow this group to go, I
don't see why they shouldn't be, he said. "They would be breaking their word
and I'm sure the Chinese government wouldn't like to be seen to be doing
that."

The Dalai Lama traveled to Australia last year. Authorities in Canberra said
the trip and a series of official functions and speeches, in which he met
senior government figures, reflected the Dalai Lama's status as a religious
leader and not a political activist.
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