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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."

Prince Charles' Olympic-sized snub to China

January 29, 2008

By Richard Spencer in Beijing

The Prince of Wales has snubbed the Chinese government by refusing to
attend the Olympic Games in Beijing this summer.

The Prince made his decision known to campaigners for a free Tibet, who
had been calling on him to show solidarity with those who believe the
Games risk obscuring China's human rights record.
Prince Charles in Chinatown
Prince Charles has snubbed the Chinese by deciding not to attend this
year's Olympics

He gave no reason for his decision, and neither did he say whether he
had received a formal invitation.

But recently he has been wooed by the Chinese, and particularly their
new ambassador in London, who had made it her personal mission to
encourage him to go.

"As you know, His Royal Highness has long taken a close interest in
Tibet and indeed has been pleased to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama on
several occasions," a letter, written to the Free Tibet Campaign by
Clive Alderton, the Prince's deputy private secretary, said.

"You asked if the Prince of Wales would be attending the opening
ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. His Royal Highness will not be
attending the ceremony."

Separately, the Prince's staff have made clear he will not be attending
the Games at any stage during the summer.

Although the letter avoids backing the group's position on the Games,
the Free Tibet Campaign welcomed the decision, with which it intends to
launch a campaign to persuade other prominent figures not to attend in
protest at Chinese policies.

"We welcome Prince Charles's decision to stay away from the Games, and
call on other public figures and politicians to follow suit," said Matt
Whitticase, a Free Tibet Campaign spokesman.

"The deterioration of the human rights situation in Tibet and China
since the Games were awarded is deplorable and can only mean that these
Games rightly are destined to be known as the Games of shame."

The Prince of Wales has long had a frosty relationship with the Chinese,
culminating in the leak of diaries written at the time of the Hong Kong
handover in 1997 in which he referred to senior officials participating
as "appalling old waxworks".

He is an admirer of the Dalai Lama, the Tibetans' spiritual leader who
has been in exile since an uprising against Chinese rule in 1959. In
2002, he received at Clarence House two nuns who had been tortured in
the notorious Drapchi prison in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa, and had
escaped to the west on their release.

His reputation as China's leading critic in the British Establishment
was what encouraged Fu Ying, the country's most senior woman diplomat,
to single him out for attention when she took up her appointment as
ambassador to Britain last year.

This led to a special "Chinese day" last autumn, when he toured
Chinatown, had lunch with visiting Chinese businessmen and women, and
attended an awards ceremony in the evening with Madam Fu.

Royal sources suggested that the decision not to go to the Games did not
mean that the Prince had lost interest in China. His charities are
already involved in collaboration with China on urban regeneration
projects, which will continue.

One reason for the rapprochement was concern shared by the government
and his private secretary, Sir Michael Peat, that his hostility to China
might become politically difficult at a time when the British government
was seeking improved relations with Beijing.

That was highlighted a week ago when Gordon Brown, the prime minister,
on his visit to China made little mention of human rights and gladly
accepted a Chinese invitation to the Games' opening ceremony.

He will join President George W. Bush, and other world leaders who are
refusing to go along with boycott campaigns such as that led by Mia
Farrow, the actress, who has called them the "Genocide Games". She
accuses China of supporting the government in Sudan, accused of
responsibility for massacres in Darfur.

Meanwhile, the importance the Chinese attach to the Games was
highlighted at the weekend, when the new mayor of Beijing, Guo Jinlong,
said that ensuring the event's success would "contribute to the
realization of the 100-year dream of the Chinese nation."

The dream of the Chinese nation, according to often repeated propaganda,
is to shake off the humiliation of 160 years of colonisation, invasion
and economic failure to retake its rightful place as a leading nation on
the world stage.

This has also involved bitter attacks on the Dalai Lama, whose enduring
popularity remains a thorn in the flesh of the Communist Party as it
seeks to win world approval.

Last Thursday, a government spokeswoman said he was not a true religious
leader, after he gave an interview in which he appeared to give his
backing to calls for peaceful protests at the Games against Chinese
policies in Tibet.

"The goal of all of his schemes is to split the motherland, sabotage
ethnic unity, sabotage China's relations with other nations and
interfere with the Olympic Games," Jiang Yu said.

"So he is in no way a religious or spiritual leader. He is purely a
general leader bent on pursuing separatism and sabotaging national unity."

Mr Whitticase said the speed with which the Prince's staff replied
suggested it was an issue to which thought had been given.

A spokeswoman for Clarence House said: "Visits abroad are taken on the
advice of the Foreign Office. We wouldn't discuss in detail any request
that has been made or not made." The Foreign Office said it was unable
to comment, and no-one was available for comment at the Chinese embassy
in London.
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