Slovakia’s government is the latest to be put under pressure by China
China has raised its economic hand in punishment to Slovakia, snubbing talks with its Prime Minister anticipated to be focused on developing trade. The move comes in response to Slovakia’s president, Andrej Kiska, meeting with the Dalai Lama in October.
Last month, Slovakia’s Prime Minister Robert Fico had told reporters that the meeting between President Kiska and the Dalai Lama had “clearly damaged Slovak-Chinese relations”, despite insistence from Slovak officials that they regarded Tibet as being part of the People’s Republic of China.
Commerce between China and Slovakia, which currently holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union, is considerable, with some six billion euros (£5.4 billion) in trade between the two countries last year.
Following the snub, Prime Minister Fico extended an invitation for the Chinese Prime Minister to visit Slovakia in the future.
Beijing routinely puts pressure on governments considering meeting with the Dalai Lama, making little or no distinction between ‘private’ and ‘official’ meetings. The list of nations whose governments have been put under pressure to cancel meetings with the Dalai Lama ever grows, with an increasing number of countries worldwide being ready to set aside human rights concerns in order to maintain trade with China.
During the Dalai Lama’s visit to France in September, for example, he had no official meetings with government officials. South Africa, whose biggest trading partner is China, has denied a visa to the Dalai Lama three times in recent years: in 2009 he was prevented from attending a Nobel Laureates' conference; in 2011, the birthday celebrations of Archbishop Desmond Tutu; then in 2014, another summit of Nobel Peace Laureates.
In contrast, US President Barack Obama held his fourth meeting with the Dalai Lama earlier this year, although the meeting took place in the White House residence rather than the Oval Office, where the president normally meets world leaders, to underline its being a personal rather than a state meeting.
In 2012 then-UK Prime Minister David Cameron met the Dalai Lama “privately” at St Paul's Cathedral. China was outraged, and Mr Cameron announced in 2013 that he had “no plans” to meet the Dalai Lama again, refusing to meet him when the Dalai Lama visited the UK in 2015.
In a barely reported decision last month, the Pope opted against inviting the Dalai Lama to a major interfaith meeting at Assisi, despite the Dalai Lama attending the inaugural meeting in 1986. Analysts noted that concerns of the Catholic Church over the Catholic minority in China might have been behind the decision.
China may wish to squeeze the Dalai Lama, but Tibetans continue to push back. Free Tibet’s ‘Beyond Belief’ campaign supports their struggle against China’s relentless interference in their religious affairs. Sign the petition to call on political and religious leaders to tell China that they will do the same and will never recognise any Dalai Lama it appoints.