His Holiness the Dalai Lama (C) with the framed Honorary Doctorate certificate flanked by Vice Chancellor Brian Roper and Chair of the Board of Governors Peter Anwyl (Photo by Ian
Cumming/Office of Tibet, London)
London, July 10 - In a letter circulated to the media, the London Metropolitan University has confirmed that their vice-chancellor did not say sorry to the Chinese authorities for awarding an honorary doctorate to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. The controversy came to the surface on Tuesday after the China Daily, a mouthpiece of the Chinese communist government in a report headlined “London school regrets honoring Dalai Lama” said that Mr. Brian Roper, vice-chancellor of the university, had “recently apologized for bestowing an honorary doctorate to the Dalai Lama after the move drew intense criticism from a number of Chinese.”
When the Office of Tibet, London, and many others drew the attention of the Vice-Chancellor and the University to the China Daily report, which totally contradicted the warmth with which His Holiness the Dalai Lama was received by the LMU teaching faculty, students and guests during the 20th May event that received positive and extensive coverage in the British as well as the world media, they were informed that what the vice-chancellor has said was not accurately reported.
What had actually happened is that representatives of the Chinese Embassy here had requested for a meeting with the vice-chancellor and during that recent meeting he had “expressed regret” at any unhappiness that had been caused to the Chinese people by the awarding of the honorary doctorate to His Holiness.
The statement issued to the media by the London Metropolitan University states:
"The Vice Chancellor of London Metropolitan University, Brian Roper, recently met with representatives of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in the UK.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama addressing the LMU faculty, students and guest after receiving the Honorary Doctorate from the Chair of the University's Board of Governors Peter Anwy, seated on the dais (Photo by Ian Cumming/Office of Tibet, London)
During that meeting, he expressed regret at any unhappiness that had been caused to Chinese people by the recent award of an honorary doctorate to the Dalai Lama. It was not the university's intention to cause any such unhappiness.
London Metropolitan University has not and will not be apologising for the award of an honorary doctorate to His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Nor will we be retracting the award."
Mr. Tsering Tashi, the London-based Representative of His Holiness the Dalai Lama said that from the LMU statement it is clear that the vice-chancellor when approached by the representatives of the Chinese Embassy had expressed “regrets” if the event had caused “unhappiness” to the “Chinese people” and not expressed any regret for having awarded the honorary doctorate to His Holiness.”
Because of how the authoritarian Chinese government regularly manipulate facts and tries to bring pressure on anything that displeases it, the world has increasingly come to realise the importance of differentiating the Chinese regime or government from the Chinese people, who themselves do not enjoy genuine human rights and free speech.
About the recent honorary doctorate award, a report in the London Metropolitan University website www.londonmet.ac.uk states: “London Met conferred the Doctorate on His Holiness in recognition of his outstanding achievements in promoting peace globally as well as for his inspirational spiritual guidance and leadership.”
It may be recalled that in 2004 when the Liverpool John Moores University awarded an Honorary Fellowship to His Holiness the Dalai Lama, the Chinese Embassy at the time had also tried to put a lot of pressure to have the honor withdrawn but without much success. The university had then issued the following statement to the media:
“The University extended an invitation to His Holiness the Dalai Lama to deliver a Roscoe Lecture several years ago. The Roscoe Lecture series provides a forum for distinguished international guests to speak on the subject of citizenship.
“As is the tradition at JMU, and in recognition of his Nobel peace prize, His Holiness will be given an Honorary Fellowship – two years ago Joseph Rotblatt was honoured in the same way after delivering a Roscoe Lecture. This is an academic lecture NOT a political rally and the University has no intention of embarrassing the Chinese government.
“It is one of the stated values of the University to ‘question accepted views and to defend independence of thought’ – the Vice Chancellor, Professor Michael Brown, has reassured the Chinese Ambassador personally that a lecture of this nature is part of normal University business and contacts between JMU and Chinese representatives remain cordial.”
Yesterday, a concerned Tibetologist from Canada emailed to the Office of Tibet to know the truth behind the China Daily report relating the London Metropolitan University and concluded his email with the sentence, “I doubted if the University had made apology?”. From the LMU statement, it is clear the university had not.
Whilst it may take some time for the current Chinese regime to have the courage to face the truth and shun the suspicion of so-called foreign interference, it is encouraging to note that more and more Chinese people through better awareness and information are joining the worldwide show of respect for His Holiness the Dalai Lama and even supporting the Tibetan people’s aspiration for genuine human rights and freedoms, which, in practical terms, they too aspire.Report by Office of Tibet, London