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Australian leader criticized for not arranging to meet Dalai Lama in Sydney

June 12, 2008

Canadian Press (CP)
June 11, 2008

SYDNEY, Australia - The Dalai Lama began a series of meditation
lectures in Australia on Wednesday, as human rights advocates
criticized Prime Minister Kevin Rudd for failing to arrange a meeting
with the Tibetan spiritual leader.

A small group of devotees welcomed the Dalai Lama as he arrived early
Wednesday in Sydney, where he was conducting five days of lectures.

Rudd was meanwhile in Japan and would later be travelling to
Indonesia. The Sydney Morning Herald newspaper said he was not due to
return to Australia until late Sunday, while the Dalai Lama was set
to leave early Monday.

Australia Tibet Council executive officer Paul Bourke said that as a
vocal advocate of Tibetan human rights the prime minister should have
arranged a meeting in Australia with the exiled Tibetan leader.

"The prime minister was quite outspoken during the recent uprisings
in Tibet, even raising the issue strongly while he was in Beijing,"
Bourke said Wednesday of recent violent protests in the
Chinese-controlled territory. "It would have been appropriate for him
to take the opportunity to meet the Dalai Lama here."

Immigration Minister Chris Evans - acting prime minister on Friday
and Saturday when both Rudd and his deputy will be overseas - was to
meet the Dalai Lama in Sydney on Friday, the minister's spokesman
Simon Dowding said.

The Sydney Morning Herald cited an unnamed spokesman saying Rudd
could not meet the Dalai Lama because he was scheduled to return to
Canberra on Sunday night and that the Dalai Lama was due to leave
Sydney on Monday morning.

Rudd's spokeswoman was not immediately available for comment or to
confirm his travel schedule.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of being a political activist
campaigning for Tibetan independence and discourages world leaders
from meeting him.

Rudd, a Chinese-speaking former diplomat to Beijing, met the Dalai
Lama in Australia a year ago as opposition leader, but they have not
met since Rudd was elected prime minister in November.

The prime minister provoked an official protest from Beijing earlier
this year when he gave a speech in Washington calling on China to
open a dialogue with the Dalai Lama in the interests of finding a
peaceful resolution to the unrest in Tibet.

Beijing's rule over Tibet came under the spotlight during
anti-government protests in March that turned violent, prompting a
crackdown by police and military.

China's government accused the Dalai Lama's government-in-exile in
northern India of engineering the protests to agitate for
independence and embarrass China ahead of the Beijing Olympics in
August. The Nobel Peace laureate denies that charge.
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