His Holiness the Dalai Lama holding a meeting with British Prime Minister David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg in London on May 14, 2012. (Photo/Clifford Shirley)
DHARAMSHALA, December 3: Revelations by a senior British member of parliament has shed light on a "blanket prohibition" that 10 Downing Street had thrown on its ministers on meeting the Dalai Lama during his UK visit this June.
British daily The Telegraph reported that two of its ministers Tim Loughton and Norman Baker were barred from meeting the Tibetan spiritual leader over lunch at the eleventh hour. The planned meeting then had coincided with crisis talks that PM David Cameron was holding over Eurozone countries at the G20 summit in Cancun, Mexico. China was in talks about offering £27billion, into a fighting fund expected to be used up by the International Monetary Fund to bail out Eurozone economies.
In July, the pair had written a private letter to PM Cameron, strongly protesting the manner in which way they were muzzled and complained about the “tremendous pressure” put on them to skip the meeting. The pair said they felt British policy over China was “tantamount to saying that British foreign policy on Tibet is whatever China wants it to be.”
The Dalai Lama had visited UK between June 14 and 23 and met with fellow Nobel Peace laureate and Burmese pro-democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi besides interacting with a number of religious leaders and lawmakers.
“We feel we have to write to you to express our concern and annoyance with regard to the inflexible instruction given last week to ministers, prohibiting any contact whatsoever with the Dalai Lama during his visit to the UK,” the two ministers said in the letter.
The pair noted that their absence at the private lunch was “deeply embarrassing” in terms of their longstanding Tibetan connections and expressed surprise over how the Government could impose a “blanket prohibition on a minister meeting a religious leader in private in a non-ministerial capacity.”
They further said that although the government had earlier cleared their meeting, the then-foreign minister Jeremy Browne’s last minute intervention “crossed the line” and was “frankly just plain wrong.”
Baker is honorary president of the Tibet Society and Loughton, who was sacked from his ministerial post in September, is a member of the Tibet Society council.
The same month, China had threatened
to pull its Olympic athletes out of their training camp in Leeds, due to a scheduled visit by the Dalai Lama to the city. Chinese officials asked Leeds City Council to put pressure on the organisers to cancel the Dalai Lama’s visit to attend the Yorkshire International Business Convention as its keynote speaker. The visit however went on as per schedule.
In May, the Dalai Lama met with
PM Cameron and his deputy Nick Clegg in London. The meeting went down badly in Beijing, which urged the UK to “stop conniving at and supporting” Tibetan separatist attempts.