Anger at lack of No. 10 invite for Dalai Lama

Click to follow
Indy Politics

The Dalai Lama arrived in Britain today amid growing concern that he is not being received at Downing Street.

The Tibetan spiritual leader will attend Parliament to give evidence on human rights to MPs on the Foreign Affairs Committee during his 11-day trip.

Instead of the political setting called for by many politicians and Tibet campaigners, Prime Minister Gordon Brown will meet the Dalai Lama at Lambeth Palace, home of the Archbishop of Canterbury, on Friday.

Downing Street has described it as an "inter-faith meeting with several other religious leaders".

Former Liberal Democrat leader Sir Menzies Campbell said: "Treating the Dalai Lama as only a religious leader simply ignores reality.

"There is no reason why he should not be received at No 10 Downing Street.

"Many people will conclude that the Prime Minister is trying to have it both ways, to see him and not offend the Chinese government.

"The Prime Minister is entitled to see who he wants."

The Dalai Lama will receive an honorary degree from London Metropolitan University this afternoon.

He will give a speech at the event, in central London, and will meet Tibetan students.

The Dalai Lama is also set to give five days of teachings from Saturday at Nottingham Arena.

Scotland Yard said "appropriate" policing would be in place and that it was aware of at least two planned protests when the Dalai Lama is due to visit Parliament on Thursday.

He became head of state at the age of just 15, when China invaded Tibet in 1950.

When Tibetans took to the streets in a failed uprising against Chinese rule in March 1959, the Dalai Lama fled to India.

He was followed into exile by around 80,000 fellow Tibetans and he began to raise their issues internationally with religious and political leaders.

The Dalai Lama has repeatedly called for pacifist resistance to Chinese occupation and was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.

Tensions flared in March this year when Buddhist monks marched to mark the 49th anniversary of the uprising.

Violence escalated as protesters took to the streets of Lhasa and were confronted with a military clampdown.

The Chinese government has accused the Dalai Lama of being behind the violence, a charge which he denies.

Matt Whitticase, of the Free Tibet Campaign, described the visit as one of "extreme importance".

He noted: "Gordon Brown is the first world leader who will have met the Dalai Lama since the protests in March and April where Tibetans showed their rejection of Chinese rule.

"It is vital that the British Government treat the Dalai Lama not just as a religious leader but also as a political figure.

"Gordon Brown is refusing to me him in a political setting is underplaying his importance as a political leader especially at a time when his importance has been emphasised by the Tibetan people and people across the world.

"There is a deep-seated political problem in Tibet and the Dalai Lama holds the key and he should therefore, be met in a political setting."