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Oxford Council to shun Dalai Lama?

Free Tibet | 11.09.2015 10:33 | Analysis | Repression | Oxford

Campaign group Free Tibet has asked Oxford City Council to extend an official welcome to the Dalai Lama when he visits the city on the 14th of September. So far, the council has not responded,leading to fears it is wary of offending the Chinese government.

Free Tibet press release
11 September 2015, immediate use

Oxford City Council to shun Dalai lama?
Council silent on welcome for spiritual leader
Leader of Oxford City Council Bob Price has not responded to a letter from campaign group Free Tibet asking him to extend an official welcome to His Holiness the Dalai Lama who will be visiting and holding a press conference in Oxford this Monday, 14 September (1). The group contacted Mr Price on 26 August, requesting that such an offer be made to show the council’s respect for the Nobel Peace Prize- winning spiritual leader.

China’s government regularly pressurises local governments and politicians regarding visits by the Dalai Lama and on other Tibet-related issues. In 2012, it lobbied Leeds City Council to apply pressure to the organiser of a private event to cancel his invitation to the Dalai Lama (2). Just a few weeks ago, Bristol Council was asked to intervene to prevent a local balloon festival featuring a hot air balloon carrying the Tibetan flag. Both councils rebuffed these approaches (3).
It is not known whether representatives of the Chinese government have approached Oxford City Council. Free Tibet enquired about that matter in their letter but has received no reply.

In the letter, Free Tibet wrote:

"The Dalai Lama is a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, the leader of Tibetan Buddhism and is one of the most deeply respected – and popular - public figures in the world. He has been a consistent advocate of dialogue with the government of China and, above all, the peaceful resolution of the issue of Tibet to the satisfaction of both parties. President Obama very recently described him as 'a good friend who 'inspires us to speak up for the freedom and dignity of all human beings'.

"In contrast, China’s government is unelected and responsible for the widespread abuse of human rights in China itself and, particularly, in Tibet. While there are positive aspects to friendly relations between China and British communities, it is important that local government representatives demonstrate that constructive engagement does not mean submitting to the will of China’s government and ignoring human rights abuse. The council is in a position to do that.

Director of Free Tibet Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said “we’re disappointed not to have heard back from the council at all. The Dalai Lama is a symbol not just of peace but of the aspirations of the Tibetan people. Politicians at international, national and local levels have become increasingly reluctant to extend a welcome to him for fear of alienating the Chinese government, which is seen as a valued trading partner and source of income for their communities."

She continued, "Free Tibet has asked the council to show that it is willing to stand up for the values represented by the Dalai Lama and against those of the undemocratic, human rights-abusing government of China. There is still time for them to do the right thing and we’re sure the people of Oxford would welcome that.”

The Lord Mayor of Oxford will be attending the UK-China High Level People to People Dialogue Reception in London next week on 17 September.

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