The Dalai Lama under Pressure
Posted by shadmia on May 12, 2007
As Tenzin Gyatso, 14th Dalai Lama, contemplates his retirement, his popularity has remained steady throughout the world; that is everywhere except in China. The Chinese leadership has continued to try to ostracize the Dalai Lama. With its promise of trade agreements, China is exerting its economic and political influence with its trading partners, the present and the hopefuls, in an effort to stifle the voice of the Dalai Lama. Such is the case with Belgium.
The Dalai Lama was scheduled to attend a conference – The Fifth International Conference of Tibet Support Group in Brussels, Belgium, from 11-14 May 2007. In a letter to the conference, regretting his inability to attend, he explained the circumstances surrounding his decision.
I HAD HOPED that I would be able to join you all at this conference to personally express my gratitude and to share my thoughts on the issue of Tibet, which is of concern to all of us. However, the Belgian Government shared with me their predicament on account of pressure from the People’s Republic of China in connection with the upcoming visit of Belgian trade delegation led by the Crown Prince. At the same time they made it clear that they are a democratic country and if I chose to come I would be welcomed. They further informed me of the continued widespread interest in Tibet in Belgium. Having considered the situation, I have decided not to visit Brussels this time.
I understand the situation of the Belgian Government. I am aware of the strong support that the people and the Government of Belgium have extended to the Tibetan people in the past. I do not want to cause any inconvenience to the Government. I am aware that my decision will disappoint many of you. I ask for your understanding.
The Dalai Lama says he wants greater autonomy, not independence, for his predominantly Buddhist homeland, but China considers him a separatist and accuses him of continuing to promote Tibetan independence. China warned other countries against developing close ties with the Dalai Lama, one day after the exiled leader of Tibet cancelled a trip to Belgium: “We hope relevant parties and countries can keep on high alert for attempts by the Dalai Lama to undermine their relations with China and keep alert to his words and actions to split the motherland,” Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Jiang Yu said at a regular news conference. The message is clear: “If you want to do business with China, don’t associate with the Dalai Lama”
The Chinese strategy seems to be working. The Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Australia in June 2007. This is causing a headache for the political leaders of the country. Should they meet the religious leader, knowing that any contact will upset sensitive diplomatic and trade ties with China? Recently China has overtaken Japan as Australia’s biggest trading partner and politicians and business are anxious to capitalize further on China’s hunger for resources as it continues to boom. So far there have been no planned meetings with any of Australia’s politicians but while the Dalai Lama was not seeking a meeting with the Prime Minister he would be happy to meet him.
“His Holiness said that it was appropriate that he let the political leaders know, wherever he is going, that he is going to be in their jurisdiction and that a meeting could be arranged,” the spokeswoman said. “We’ve approached the Prime Minister’s office but we’ve had no confirmation.”
Even though political leaders seem to be shying away from the Dalai Lama, the awards of recognition keep on coming. The Award gala, “Bild Osgar 2007” scheduled to take place in the German city of Leipzig will recognize the Dalai Lama’s persistent and non-violent struggle on behalf of the Tibetan people. In awarding the Dalai Lama with its Peace Award, Bild-Zeitung, Europe’s largest circulating daily newspaper, believes that in the time shaped by terrorism and violence, the Dalai Lama’s message of non-violence, reconciliation and dialogue is unique. He still commands huge crowds of people wherever he goes. Below is a clip from a conference in Chicago attended by over 12,000: