(Ottawa, Wednesday, 9 May 2007) – It is with profound shock that the Canada Tibet Committee (CTC) learned today that the Belgian government succumbed to Chinese pressure and conveyed its apprehension to His Holiness the Dalai Lama over his planned visit to Brussels on Friday for a global conference of Tibet support groups, announced CTC Executive Director Dermod Travis.
Belgian pressure on the Dalai Lama is unquestionably linked to the upcoming visit of a Belgian trade delegation to China, led by Belgium’s Crown Prince in June, and resulted in His Holiness the Dalai Lama canceling his long-planned visit. Ironically, the cancellation of the visit by the Dalai Lama also comes on the eve of the European Union - China human rights dialogue from May 15 to 16 in Berlin.
“While the Chinese government can convey any opinion they wish to foreign governments, equally those governments are free to limit their response to a simple acknowledgment of the opinion,” said Travis. “Belgium’s decision to convey this pressure to the Dalai Lama demonstrates that Belgium’s desire to curry favour with the Chinese government trumps Belgium’s honoured democratic traditions and institutions.”
Added Tsering Jampa, Executive Director of the International Campaign for Tibet (ICT) in Europe: 'We are hugely disappointed that Belgium, a founding member of the European Union has acquiesced to China's strong-arm tactics by silencing the Dalai Lama, one of the world's greatest advocates for peace.'
'The ICT has consistently called for a coherent EU position on Tibet. The EU must now consider the message this cancellation sends in the week prior to their human rights dialogue with China, where we know the Tibet issue will be on their agenda,' said Jampa.
The cancellation of the Tibetan leader's Brussels trip follows the postponement under similarly controversial circumstances of an earlier visit meant to take place in June 2005. The date had coincided with a state visit by the Belgian King Albert II to China. The CTC believes that the level of Chinese pressure on Belgium shows how seriously the Chinese government takes the enduring influence of the Dalai Lama, as well as its continued intolerance of the support of foreign governments for human rights and the Tibet issue.
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