Dharamsala, Feb. 7: Exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama Saturday left Dharamsala, his exile hometown in northern India, to begin a four-day visit to Europe, where he will receive honorary citizenship of two cities in Italy, and a media prize in Germany.
This would be the Tibetan leader’s first overseas trip in 2009.
The visit comes "as Tibetans worldwide are preparing to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising against Chinese rule in Tibet" and "at a time when the Tibetan people in Tibet are facing an increasing Chinese crackdown," said Tseten Samdup Chhoekyapa, the Dalai Lama’s representative for central and eastern Europe. “The crackdown has created great fear amongst the Tibetans.” Tseten adds in a statement published on the website of the Tibetan Government-in-exile on Thursday.
The Dalai Lama will arrive in Rome, the capital of Italy on 8 February. He is visiting Rome at the invitation of its Mayor, Gianni Alemanno, to receive the honourary citizenship of Rome on 9 February, according to the statement.
The Rome City Council approved by an overwhelming majority a motion in September last year to confer its Honorary Citizenship to the Tibetan leader for “his international efforts to find a peaceful solution for Tibet and for having affirmed the principles of human rights and peaceful conflict-resolution between nations."
The Nobel Peace laureate will then travel to Venice to receive the city's honourary citizenship. A resolution to confer the honour was unanimously approved by the Venice City Council on 29 July 2008.
In Germany, the Dalai Lama will be bestowed with the Deutsche Medienpreis (the German Media Prize) in Baden-Baden, on February 10, for his spirit of "reconciliation, tolerance, humility and respect" and for representing "the non-violent struggle for the rights of the Tibetan people."
Media Control, one of Germany's leading market-research companies as well as an interpreter in media studies, analysis, and evaluation, will present the award.
The Dalai Lama was voted by a 20-member jury consisting of Germany's most important and influential media chief editors for the 2008 Award.
"In a time of religious tension, self-destructive, addiction to profit and ongoing violations of human rights, the Dalai Lama actively advocates reconciliation, tolerance, humility and respect. He represents the non-violent struggle for the rights of the Tibetan people, a struggle he has been leading for over 50 years from exile in India,” the Media Control said in its announcement.
Previous recipients of the media prize include Nelson Mandela, Kofi Annan, Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, King Hussein of Jordan, and King Juan Carlos of Spain.
"His Holiness the Dalai Lama feels honoured to receive these awards in the spirit with which he received the 1989 Noble Peace Prize," Tseten said in the statement.
His Holiness the Dalai Lama is scheduled return to India on 11 February.