Tibetans in Australia mark 50th Anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising against China in March 2009 (Photo/file)
Dharamsala, June 30: Australian parliamentarians are visiting this northern India hill station this week to meet the exiled Tibetan leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama and representatives of Tibet’s Government-in-Exile based here.
The unofficial delegation comprises the Labor MPs Michael Danby and Melissa Parke, Liberal MP Peter Slipper, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Greens Senators Scott Ludlam and Sarah Hanson-Young. Many of them are members of Australia’s All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet.
The delegation will also be accompanied by a handful of lawyers, journalists and activists from Australia.
The delegation will be in Dharamsala from July 1 to 6, and are expected to take part in the public celebrations of the Dalai Lama’s 74th birthday on July 6.
Over the six-day visit, the group will also have meetings representatives of the Tibetan parliament and the Tibetan cabinet, as well as newly arrived refugees and former political prisoners.
This will be the first such visit by a delegation of Australian MPs.
“A lot of us feel that the non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people to preserve their culture and identity and their very modest political aims for cultural autonomy within the Chinese state is something that we identify with for different reasons,” the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Danby, who has long campaigned for the human rights of Tibetans and is heading the delegation, as saying.
Mr Danby is also the Chair of All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet.
“This is a significant step in Australia’s support for a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan situation. It is also a unique opportunity for Australian parliamentarians to learn first-hand about the challenges facing the Tibetan people and Tibetan culture,” he said.
However, the report also said it expected tensions between China and Australia would increase with the visit by federal parliamentarians to Dharamsala.
In March this year, Mr Danby defied a written request from Chinese Ambassador to not speak at an event in Canberra marking the 50th Anniversary of the 1959 Tibetan Uprising. Danby retorted saying, "China has to understand the democratic norms of Australia".
At the event on the lawns of Parliament House, MPs and Senators from all political parties reportedly took to the stage and spoke passionately in support Tibetans' right to genuine autonomy and in condemnation of China's intensifying crackdown in Tibet.
On Friday, July 3, the delegation will address a press conference arranged by the Tibetan Parliament-in-Exile.