Dalai Lama urges UK to help Tibet

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The Independent Online
The Dalai Lama yesterday appealed for British help in bringing China to the negotiating table at the start of a high-level diplomatic offensive on behalf of his Tibetan people, writes Louise Jury.

Speaking to 200 members of both Houses of Parliament, the Tibetan leader said he wanted talks on the future of Tibet and called for "urgent intervention and action" by the international community to secure them.

China had earlier warned that the decision to allow the Dalai Lama to address peers and MPs would have an adverse effect on Sino-British relations.

The Tibetan leader admitted the delicate negotiations over Hong Kong made it difficult for Britain to exert pressure. But, he said: "The reality today is that Tibet is an occupied country under colonial rule. This is the essential issue which must be addressed and resolved through negotiations.

"Tibet - an ancient nation with a unique culture and civilisation - is disappearing fast. In endeavouring to protect my nation from this catastrophe, I have always sought to be guided by realism, moderation and patience.

"However, it has now become clear that our efforts alone are not sufficient to bring the Chinese government to the negotiating table."

The best way of solving conflict was through dialogue, he said. "As soon as some positive indication comes from the Chinese side, I'm ready to talk."

The Dalai Lama has been the political as well as the spiritual leader since China invaded Tibet in 1950. He has lived in exile since 1959, while fellow countrymen who remained have suffered repression under Chinese rule.

The week-long visit by the Dalai Lama, his eighth to Britain, follows a successful visit to Germany last month after which the Bonn parliament backed a resolution condemning China's human rights record in Tibet. China retaliated by cancelling visits by senior leaders, jeopardising trading links.

In Britain, an intense lobbying campaign secured him a meeting yesterday with Robin Cook, Labour's foreign affairs spokesman, and he is due to meet Malcolm Rifkind, the Foreign Secretary, today.

Cui Tiankai, a Chinese foreign ministry spokesman, said: "By inviting the Dalai Lama to visit Britain and offering him a forum, the Tibetan group of the British House of Commons abets the Dalai's action to split the motherland. It will bring about adverse effects to the Sino-British relations."

But the visit was thought to be unlikely to provoke a diplomatic crisis.