Dalai Lama Excluded From Millennium Summit
Dalai Lama Excluded From Millennium World Peace Summit Of Religious And Spiritual Leaders
More than 1,000 religious and spiritual leaders from around the world will meet for the Millennium World Peace Summit at the United Nations, but the Dalai Lama, excluded for fear of offending China, will be absent.
The Summit is intended to bring together leaders of religious groups to discuss conflicts and initiate religious based efforts to resolve them and takes place a week prior to a similar gathering of world political leaders.
The Buddhist leader, considered by his followers to be an incarnated deity, fled Tibet in 1959 with thousands of supporters, after the Chinese forcefully occupied Tibet and his life was believed to be in danger. In 1989 he won the Nobel Peace Prize. The Dalai Lama is head to over 15 million Buddhists across Asia, Europe and the Americas.
China deeply abhors the Dalai Lama since he represents a symbol of the rich traditional culture that Beijing have been destroying for the last 41 years, and have used their power to block his participation in UN sponsored events since becoming a member of the UN Security Council in 1970.
"China would object vehemently to his presence here because they consider Tibet their territory and the Dalai Lama challenges that," said U.N. spokesman Fred Eckhard.
Desmond Tutu, Anglican Archbishop emeritus of Cape Town, South Africa, and fellow Peace Prize laureate has spoken out about the "totally bizarre and quite unbelievable" treatment of the Dalai Lama.
Although unable to attend the Summit, Tutu wrote to Kofi Annan, the U.N. Secretary-General and convenor of the Summit and said, "Had I accepted I would have withdrawn as a small protest against a very sad aberration."
Although a late, partial invite was extended to the Dalai Lama, to attend the last two days of the Summit, not taking place at the UN but at a hotel, where he was asked to give the closing address he declined, citing a previous commitment to give religious teachings at his home in Dharmsala, Northern India.
"His Holiness has never been comfortable in accepting invitations that are made out of compulsion," said the Dalai Lama's press secretary, Tenzin Taklha. "He doesn't want to do anything that would inconvenience any individual or organisation which has invited him."
Along with other supporters of the Dalai Lama, Brahma Das, the executive director of the Council for Interfaith Call for Universal Religious Freedom and Freedom of Worship in Tibet, believes it’s too little too late.
"It's not even as full an invitation as the one extended to the other invitees to the Summit -- and this to a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and to one of the most revered spiritual leaders on the planet,"
Thubten Samdup wrote in the Globe and Mail on July 26, 2000 that this behaviour is unfortunately nothing new.
Mr Samdup lists many past incidents where the UN have appeased Chinese demands when it comes to Tibet and the Dalai Lama, despite the fact the UN is the very organisations established to uphold fundamental human rights around the world.
In one such incident Richard Reoch, the author of "A Vision of Hope," a commemorative book published for the 50th Anniversary of the UN, was asked by a UN official to substitute a short quotation from the Dalai Lama because the UN did not want to stir up controversy. Reoch refused as did the other 15 contributors, alleging "censorship and intellectual cleansing," and subsequently withdrew their names. UN editors, however, went ahead and published the book without the Dalai Lama's quotation.
It is not just the UN, however, who have come under pressure from China on issues relating to Tibet and the Dalai Lama.
Prior to the Dalai Lama’s second visit to New Zealand in 1996, Beijing warned Jim Bolger, the Prime Minister at the time, not to meet with the Dalai Lama and later announced ties with New Zealand had been damaged by his visit.
"This is a clear interference in the internal affairs of China, and will affect relations between China and New Zealand," Foreign Ministry spokesman Shen Guofang said.
The more recent handling of the Chinese Prime Minister Jiang Zemin’s visit to Christchurch last year, however, showed the New Zealand Government was willing to remove the rights of New Zealanders to hold a peaceful demonstration in order to appease China. Mr Zemin refused to attend the dinner, held in his honour on the night of his arrival, until non-violent protesters were blocked from his view. Subsequently the police parked buses in front of the protestors and used police sirens to drown out their noise them out.