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"On my part, I remain committed to the process of dialogue. It is my firm belief that dialogue and a willingness to look with honesty and clarity at the reality of Tibet can lead us to a viable solution."

Spiritual Leader or Political Activist?

October 2, 2008

gair rhydd - Cardiff,UK
Issue 871

Simon Lucey considers how Gordon Brown should treat the Dalai Lama’s
visit and what options he has after the resulting Chinese response

The Dalai Lama claims that he is a ‘simple Buddhist Monk,’ however, the
furore that surrounds the spiritual leader’s tour of the West suggests
that this is not the case.

He is the spiritual leader of Tibetan Buddhism and leader of the Tibetan
government-in-exile, thus Gordon Brown is treating the Dalai Lama
diplomatically by his religious role, rather than political aspirations,
by agreeing to meet him at the London residence of the Archbishop of
Canterbury instead of Downing Street.

The Dalai Lama’s visit to London is the second in a five-country tour of
the West timed well with the beginning of the Beijing Olympic Games in
August to keep the Tibet struggle in the broadsheets.

However, the Dalai Lama may well not expect a warm welcome everywhere he
goes due to China’s political clout and intimidation. At his first stop,
Berlin, Angela Merkel refused to meet him, as did the Foreign Minister.
Instead he was met by the lowly Development Minister.

Even this act warranted a formal complaint by the Chinese who insist
that, despite the Dalai Lama’s outward claim that he only wants
autonomy, not independence for Tibet, for China he symbolises the threat
to the ‘One China’ policy.

This follows a previous visit of the Dalai Lama to Berlin last
September, where Merkel agreed to meet him resulting in a nine month
freeze in relations between Germany and China, which are only now
beginning to thaw.

Brown’s decision to meet the spiritual leader in the residence of the
Archbishop shows he is treating him in his religious role rather than
the political mould, which must be due to China’s pressure.

It is easy to see why Brown must stay in China’s good books, her economy
is forecast to grow by 10% this year and it provides a huge potential
market for British firms, especially in the financial, legal and
professional sectors.

Also, Chancellor Alistair Darling has been continuing to urge Beijing to
make London the overseas hub of its new sovereign wealth fund. China’s
export-driven expansion has provided it with a sizeable war chest that
it will channel through the newly erected Chinese Investment Corporation
into overseas investment.

Currently China promises to invest around £70bn overseas although
Darling expects this to rise.

Clearly, positive relations with China are crucial; however the neglect
of human rights in China and its approach to Tibet mean that deep
relations with China are unpopular with sections of the Western public.

China seems to have the West acting like puppets on a string, due to the
huge amount of cash at its disposal. Peter Mandelson, the EU trade
commissioner, has warned against a trade boycott.

In the run up to the Games, he claims it would only cause suffering in
the West and would not have any influence over China’s horrendous human
rights record and refusal to hold talks about Tibet.

The prospect of reform over China’s human rights record still seems
distant and unlikely to come from a domestic source. However, increased
pressure from the International Community seems to be the only possible
way to get the message to China.

Its recent handling of the devastating earthquake suggests the Chinese
authorities are starting to value the attention of the International
Community by allowing the press access and reacting quickly to save many

The freeing up of the market suggests that the relationship between its
government and its working class people, that have for so long been
exploited, may be about to change.

However, despite China’s slight change in approach Brown should be able
to voice his concerns over China’s human rights; its elections as well
as courts are controlled by the communist party, it restricts movement,
curbs trade unions, censors newspapers and the internet to name but a
few differing traits to the UK

Brown is treading a difficult line with relations with China, but he
must insist on a mature relationship where the Iron Chancellor is able
to criticise certain aspects of the Communist regime without the
intimidation of China’s own financial fist in return.
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