British Ministers Barred from Meeting Dalai Lama

Documentary series Dispatches reported this week on Chinese pressure to prevent national and local officials from meeting with the Dalai Lama (British I.P. address required) during his visit to Britain earlier this year. The programme describes China’s interference with a business conference in Leeds at which the Dalai Lama was scheduled to appear, and reveals that prime minister David Cameron blocked two ministers from attending a meal with him at the last minute. From Christopher Hope at The Telegraph:

The “blanket prohibition” on meeting the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader – imposed by the Prime Minister’s team during crisis talks over Eurozone countries at a meeting of G20 countries – prompted a fierce backlash from ministers.

The ministers – Tim Loughton and Norman Baker – were barred from attending a private lunch with the Tibetan spiritual leader in the apartment of the House of Commons Speaker John Bercow minutes before it was due to start.

[…] Mr Loughton told the programme that he and Mr Baker had originally been cleared to meet the Dalai Lama on his visit to the UK between 14 and 23 June this year.

[…] The pair said they felt British policy over China was “tantamount to saying that British foreign policy on Tibet is whatever China wants it to be.[“]

The Dalai Lama was at least allowed onto British soil. He was also due to visit Taiwan this month, but was refused a visa on the grounds that, as a foreign ministry spokesman told the AFP, “it’s just not a good time”. Meanwhile, a South African court ruled last week that the country’s government had acted unlawfully in effectively blocking his visit for Archbishop Desmond Tutu’s 80th birthday in 2011. From the BBC:

The Supreme Court of Appeal said the former home affairs minister had “unreasonably delayed her decision”.

The government denied it had bowed to pressure from China to block the trip.

In response to the ruling, Archbishop Tutu’s office said it as a “credit to South Africa’s judicial system” and he looked forward to inviting the Dalai Lama to South Africa for his 90th birthday.

Dispatches also examined the lobbying efforts in Britain of beleaguered Chinese telecom giant Huawei, which has spent over £90,000 over the last two years on travel for MPs and donations to political parties. Former defence and foreign secretary Malcolm Rifkind is currently leading a parliamentary review into the company’s presence in the U.K., and is due to submit his final report before Christmas.


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