Mongolia resists pressure and hosts Dalai Lama

The Dalai Lama arriving at Gandan Tegchenling Monastery in Ulaanbaatar (Dalailama.com)
The Dalai Lama arriving at Gandan Tegchenling Monastery in Ulaanbaatar (Dalailama.com)

24th November 2016

Dalai Lama responds to Chinese criticism and hints at future meeting with Trump

The Dalai Lama has completed a four-day visit to Mongolia, who ignored the pressure put on them by the Chinese government not to allow him into the country.

Last week Beijing warned the Mongolian government against allowing the Dalai Lama to visit, claiming that such a visit would harm relations between the two countries. Prior to the visit, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang urged Mongolia not to "support or facilitate the separatist activities of the Dalai clique", telling journalists:

“We strongly urge Mongolia to act by keeping in mind the big picture of maintaining the stable development of bilateral relations and to keep their promises made on this issue."

The big picture

Beijing has reportedly already cancelled several high-level meetings with Mongolia in response to the Dalai Lama's trip to Mongolia, including a visit by Mongolia's Deputy Prime Minister.

A day into the visit, Geng Shuang told journalists that China was "dissatisfied" with Mongolia and that its government must now take “concrete actions" to "prevent the disruption of the sound development of China-Mongolia relations”.

The Dalai Lama, who arrived in Mongolia on 18 November and departed yesterday, was on a religious rather than a political visit. While there, the Dalai Lama received an honorary degree, took part in religious events and met with academics and young people.

No meetings took place between the Dalai Lama and the Mongolian government, although the President and Prime Minister of Mongolia both expressed their support for his visit.

Dalai Lama speaking in Ulannbaatar, Mongolia (Dalailama.com)

At the end of his time in Mongolia, the Dalai Lama found time to respond to China's complaints over his visit. In a press conference yesterday, prior to his departure to Japan, the Dalai Lama told a group of journalists:

“This is just the usual Chinese government routine. Japan and Mongolia are the only two Buddhist countries I am able to visit. There are more than 400 million Buddhists in China. Many of them ask me to visit them there.”

He also answered the continued claims by Beijing that he was a “separatist”, despite his advocacy of the “Middle Way” approach for Tibetan autonomy:

“Chinese government propaganda accuses me of being a separatist. The reality is that since 1974 I have not sought independence, but what I am looking for is genuine autonomy."

Foreign relations grounded and derailed

Mongolia’s economy is heavily dependent on Chinese trade and investment, and China has taken action against the country before. In 2006, following the Dalai Lama’s last visit to Mongolia, China delayed an Air China flight to Ulaanbaatar for 12 hours. A visit by the Dalai Lama in 2002 was followed by rail links between Mongolia and China being closed for two days.

The Chinese government has put pressure on a number of governments to persuade them not to host the Dalai Lama, threatening serious consequences in terms of trade and relations. Earlier this month China snubbed trade talks with the Slovakian Prime Minister after Slovakia’s President met the Dalai Lama in October.

The Dalai Lama walking to Gandan Assembly Hall at Gandan Tegchenling Monastery in Ulannbaatar (Dalailama.com)

A number of governments, including those of France, Norway and South Africa, have yielded to pressure in the past and refused to meet the Dalai Lama or even grant him a visa.

Outgoing US President Barack Obama has met with the Dalai Lama four times, with the most recent meeting coming in June this year.

While in Mongolia the Dalai Lama also expressed his intention to meet with the next US President, Donald Trump. In a press conference in the capital, Ulaanbaatar, he told reporters: “I think there are some problems to go to United States, so I will go to see the new president."

Take action

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.