Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Australia "bans" the Dalai Lama

Tuesday, 15 May 2007: The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader is due to visit Australia in June, but the Senate President, Paul Calvert, has rejected the proposal that the Nobel Peace Prize winner be given an official parliamentary reception when he visits Canberra. The visit by the popular 71-year old, who enjoys "rock-star" status across the globe, apparently poses a diplomatic headache for the federal government as it does not want to jeopardise trade with China. Last week China warned foreign officials against meeting the Buddhist figure...

The exiled spiritual and political leader of Tibet is expected to arrive in Perth, WA on the 6 June for a free public event: ‘Spirituality & Sustainability Forum’ - Buddhism, the Environment and Spirituality at the Burswood Dome.

At the Perth event, the Dalai Lama will be joined by Professor Ian Lowe, of the Australian Conservation Foundation, Brett Godfrey, CEO of Virgin Blue, and Anna Rose, founder of the Australian Youth Climate Coalition.

With concern for the environment at an all time high, the Dalai Lama and his fellow speakers will address issues around environmental consciousness and the challenges of climate change. "There is suffering on this planet and there is a need to strengthen our love for our planet and our service to the living Earth,” says His Holiness. "We think we can control nature, which is a false perception."

His Holiness sees the planet and its people as completely interconnected, a view that is increasingly compelling in the 21st century and resonates deeply with millions of people worldwide. "This planet is our own home,” he says. "Taking care of our world, our planet, is just like taking care of our own home. Our very lives depend upon this Earth, our environment."

But the Australian Greens say the Howard government is grovelling to the Chinese regime by refusing to host a parliamentary reception for the Dalai Lama. The Senate president's letter states: "as I am sure you will understand, I have to be mindful of international sensitivities." Greens Leader Senator Bob Brown said that this was a craven capitulation to the communist bosses in Beijing.

"Beijing rules," said Senator Brown. "This is in such stark contrast to the Prime minister's $2 million allocation to have Australian cricketers withdraw from the tour of Mugabe's Zimbabwe. President Hu represses political and religious dissent and has 23,000 police monitoring citizens emails. If a Chinese citizen seeks a website about freedom in Tibet, the police are knocking on their door within the hour. There are more than 100 political prisoners in jail in Tibet alone," Senator Brown said.

"If John Howard tried to set up a Liberal Party in Beijing he would go straight to jail. Yet the Senate President, who is acting under Government direction, has banned the Dalai Lama at president Hu's pleasure - it is Howard Government kowtowing to President Hu and it lets down Australia's proud self-image of defying dictators and welcoming peace makers."

Senator Brown said it was clear Chinese President Hu Jintao had Prime Minister John Howard "round his little finger". "This is the presiding officers of this parliament and the Howard government kowtowing to the communist bosses in Beijing," he told reporters.

"The Dalai Lama is a peacemaker, he's an environmentalist, he's a compassionate human being, he's a Nobel Peace Prize winner, and he deserves to have a full reception in the Great Hall of this parliament," he said. "It's time that we had governments with the gumption to stand up for democracy, freedom of speech, freedom of religious worship - the rights that we take for granted in this great country of ours." Senator Brown also said the Dalai Lama's visit was a test for Kevin Rudd, and called on the Labor leader to meet with him.

Recently the Dalai Lama criticised Chinese policies in his Tibetan homeland, calling on rulers in Beijing to grant Tibet "autonomy". Currently in Chicago, the 71-year-old exile said dissatisfaction with Chinese rule runs wide and deep.

"Ninety-five percent of people in Tibet are very unhappy... there's deep dissatisfaction," he said. "Once we get meaningful autonomy... we will be loyal and there will be more unity and genuine stability... and genuine prosperity for Tibet," said the Dalai Lama. "We are trying to tell the Chinese government the present policy is counterproductive."

During earlier visits across the USA, the Nobel Peace Prize winner said Tibetans would live in harmony with the Chinese if the ruling Communist Party would allow them to govern themselves.

The Dalai Lama, whose worldly name is Tenzin Gyatso, fled Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese quelled a popular uprising. He is still widely revered in Tibet, though he is now based in Dharmsala, India, where he heads a government in exile.

Senator Brown said that he is working with MPs from other parties to co-host a parliamentary reception for the Dalai Lama in Parliament House's Main Committee Room between 4.30pm and 5.30pm on Tuesday, 12th June after the Dalai Lama's Press Club appearance.

The Age
Associated Press
The Sunday Times
Perth Indymedia

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