Dalai Lama to rally support for Tibet in Germany

Germany is the Dalai Lama’s first stop this week on a tour meant to keep Tibet at the centre of the world stage ahead of the Beijing Olympics, writes AFP’s Pratap Chakravarty.

Dalai Lama to rally support for Tibet in Germany
Photo: DPA

The Dalai Lama leaves his Indian home in exile on Wednesday for a tour of western powers, keeping Tibet at the centre of the world stage ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

The Tibetan spiritual leader will visit the United States, Australia,

Britain and France.

But he flies first to Germany, where he will speak on human rights issues two months after the eruption of bloody riots in the Tibetan capital Lhasa.

The 1989 Nobel Peace Prize laureate will however not meet Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier during his weeklong stay while Chancellor Angela Merkel will be in Latin America, said the Dalai Lama’s spokesman Tenzin Takla.

A meeting between Merkel and the Buddhist monk during his last trip to Germany in September 2007 chilled ties between Beijing and Berlin.

Germany went on to welcome talks this month between China and envoys of the Tibetan leader to try to defuse tensions in the aftermath of the violence.

The Dalai Lama will instead meet parliament speaker Norbert Lammert and the state premiers of Hesse and North Rhine-Westphalia, Roland Koch and Juergen Ruettgers, Takla said.

His representative in Europe, Tseten Chhoekyap, branded Steinmeier’s decision not to meet the Dalai Lama “an unhappy one,” but Takla tried to downplay the statement.

“His Holiness does not wish to create any inconvenience for anyone or any country,” Takla said in the northern Indian hilltop town of Dharamshala, seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

The second leg of a five-nation swing will take the 72-year-old spiritual leader to London for nine days, for what Takla called political talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

The Dalai Lama returns to India on June 1 and after a brief pause will leave for Australia, the United States and France, wrapping up the tour on August 20 – just four days before the Olympics close.

Brown said he was “unhappy” with Beijing’s crackdown in Tibet, which he noted had clouded a human rights dialogue with China.

“His Holiness will talk about the protests in Tibet with Brown,” Takla said.

“Eighty percent of his visits are devoted to his commitment to human values and the promotion of religious harmony but of course since he is meeting leaders and parliamentarians questions on the recent unrest will be asked and answered.

“But we don’t believe that these discussions on Tibet will put any more pressure on the Dalai Lama or have any further strain on relations between Western countries and China,” Takla said.

China accuses the Dalai Lama of fomenting trouble to derail the August Games – an allegation vehemently rejected by the Buddhist cleric, who fled to India after a failed anti-Beijing uprising in his homeland in 1959.

The Tibetan government-in-exile says Chinese protests about the Dalai Lama’s tour were inevitable.

“It’s a routine tradition of the Chinese to protest and try to discourage host countries from meeting the Dalai Lama,” government spokesman Thubten Samphel said.

“But it is the responsibility of His Holiness to inform governments of the deep-rooted resentment of the Tibetan people for China,’ he added.

Indian experts too warned China may not take his trip kindly.

“China is bound to make noise over this trip,” warned analyst Wilson John of the Observer Research Group, a New Delhi-based independent think-tank.

“But this may not further widen the rift which already exists in ties between China and the Western powers as Beijing wants to keep things under wraps until the Games are over,” he said.