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‘Drama Lama’ winds up UK visit as China criticises PM Brown

Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama

If the Dalai Lama wasn’t a revered spiritual leader he’d make a great "ham actor", Anne Treneman, a columnist with London’s The Times newspaper wrote about one of the world’s best known and most celebrated religious leaders, as he entered the final stage of an 11-day visit to Britain.

"He’s a Drama – Lama, that’s for sure," said the columnist about the 72- year old Buddhist leader. She was referring to his ability to charm lawmakers, politicians and religious leaders, his constant smiling and giggling, as well as his engaging showmanship as he moves around the world in what the columnist referred to as "a swirl of crimson". For half a century, the Dalai Lama has been campaigning for an autonomous Tibet.

The Dalai Lama leaves Britain on 30 May after having met with Prime Minister Gordon Brown, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, the Roman Catholic leader, Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor, a cross-section of other faith representatives, Prince Charles, the heir to the British throne, and prominent politicians from the governing Labour Party, and the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties.

He is on a five-nation tour, and this week in Nottingham, central England, the Dalai Lama is holding talks with various human rights activists who are worried about China’s actions in Tibet.

A highlight of the Dalai Lama’s visit was his 23 May meeting with Prime Minister Brown at Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Brown’s opponents criticised him of pandering to the Chinese government because previous British leaders, including Tony Blair and his predecessor John Major, met the Dalai Lama, not at Lambeth Palace but at No. 10 Downing Street, the prime minister’s official residence.

"He [Brown] is kowtowing to the Chinese leadership," Norman Baker, the Liberal Democrat vice chairperson of the All Parliamentary Group on Tibet was quoted as saying by the Agence France-Presse news agency.

The Chinese government will feel that it has won a "small victory" because of this, a former British ambassador to China, Sir Christopher Hum, said after the decision not to meet the Dalai Lama at the Downing Street residence.
Still, a report issued by the Associated Press on 24 May said that China lashed out at Brown for meeting the Dalai Lama, accusing Britain of ignoring Chinese interests and interfering in its internal affairs.

The former British envoy to China told the BBC the recent earthquake that hit China’s Sichuan Province had made British people sympathetic to the Chinese and that the Beijing government had handled the crisis in "a very effective way". Hum said, "There has been a quite remarkable degree of openness and this is a reflection that society in China is becoming more open."

On 21 May, the Dalai Lama received an honorary doctorate from London Metropolitan University.

In a speech at the university, mostly devoid of political references, the Dalai Lama said, "In Tibet, although the Chinese government is helping modern education … as you know, the totalitarian system is one sided, every field is much politicised and it does not give a complete form of education."

Speaking during his visit to the House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee in the British Parliament, the Dalai Lama played down the controversy over his Lambeth Palace meeting with Brown, who in March had said he was "unhappy" about China’s actions in Tibet.

Although neither Brown not the Dalai Lama gave away anything about their talks, the Archbishop of Canterbury said "a warm and searching discussion" took place between the religious leaders and the British Prime Minister which ended in what he called "a time of shared silence".

In Nottingham, the Dalai Lama further angered the Chinese government by expressing his thanks to Japanese Prime Minister Yasuo Fukuda, who recently criticised China’s policies in Tibet in an interview with the daily newspaper, Yomiuri Shimbun. The Dalai Lama said Fukuda’s comments "were helpful to make clear some mistakes and wrong policy carried out by the Chinese government".


Photo : Tibetan leader the Dalai Lama