Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Cold Reception to the Dalai Lama

The reknown spiritual leader of Tibetan buddhism arrived in Scotland to little official welcome. The Dalai Lama is on a two-day tour that will see him visit three cities delivering public talks in Edinburgh, Dundee and Inverness to promote his message of non-violence, compassion and universal responsibility. Dundee’s have failed to substitute an alternative speaker after Lord Provost Bob Duncan cancelled a speech during the appearance of the Tibetan spiritual leader at the Caird Hall due to personal bereavement. The council are accused of distancing themelves following a visit from the Chinese consul. Alex Salmond, the Scottish nationalist leader, has been  criticised for not arranging to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit, and faced claims he is failing to confront human rights issues of Tibet's claims for independence to protect his relationship with China. Changchub Mermesel, chairwoman of the Tibetan Community in Scotland, said she believed Scottish Government efforts to nurture relationships with China, including the deal to bring pandas to Edinburgh Zoo, were part of the reason behind Mr Salmond’s decision not to meet the Dalai Lama.

Shabnum Mustapha, Programme Director for Amnesty International in Scotland, said: “It is appalling and very worrying if Dundee City Council has ‘withdrawn’ its support for the Dalai Lama’s visit to its city due to pressure from the Chinese Government."

The statement goes on to explain that “Amnesty has again and again highlighted China’s questionable human rights record, including its continued restriction on freedom of expression – and it seems that this censorship has now reached our shores. To think that our own publicly-elected officials would bow to pressure of this kind is unthinkable, and we would urge Dundee City Council to reconsider their decision. It is also very disappointing that it appears no-one from the Scottish Government, including the First Minister, is able to welcome the Dalai Lama as he embarks on his visit to Scotland. His visit to our country should serve as yet another opportunity for our government to put the spotlight on human rights abuses in China. Instead it seems that economics trump human rights when it comes to Scotland's growing relationship with the world's second largest economy. The Scottish Government should be welcoming this opportunity to support the Dalai Lama, an important spiritual figure who symbolises the movement for non-violent self-determination for an oppressed people.Throughout China, freedom of expression continues to be restricted by the authorities and re-education through labour camps continue to operate. And the Chinese government has displayed increasingly repressive behaviour in ethnic minority areas such as Tibet.” (our emphasis)

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