Boris Johnson under pressure to welcome the Dalai Lama
Campaigners and Green AMs lobby Mayor over London visit
Campaign group Free Tibet has challenged Mayor of London Boris Johnson to invite the Dalai Lama to meet him during his trip to London. The Tibetan spiritual leader and bête noire for the government of China visits the capital this weekend and next week (1). London Green Party Assembly Members Jenny Jones and Darren Johnson have endorsed the call and are also pressuring the Mayor to extend an official welcome the Dalai Lama.
The Dalai Lama’s trip is his first visit to London since 2012, when David Cameron and Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg provoked China’s anger by having a private meeting with the spiritual leader. After the meeting, the Chinese government threatened “serious consequences”, saying it had "seriously interfered with China's internal affairs, undermined China's core interests, and hurt the feelings of the Chinese people" (2).
London is a key UK trading partner with China and the Mayor has been an enthusiastic advocate of closer ties with the country (3). In 2013 he undertook a trade trip to China, where he notoriously tried to avoid saying the Dalai Lama’s name in a UK television interview and declined to make any comment on human rights (4).
London Green Party Assembly Member Jenny Jones said:
“The Dalai Lama is rightly respected and loved across the world as an advocate for peace and compassion. A global figure of such popularity and importance should be welcomed in London, not shunned in London. It’s the job of the Mayor to represent this city and its values, not just to tout for business. With China’s economy looking shaky and the capital’s increasing importance as a trading partner, what happens here has influence there. Boris Johnson should pay respect to a great leader - and show Beijing and the world that London is big enough and strong enough not to trade away its values in the hope of a fast buck.”
Free Tibet contacted the Mayor on 28 August but has yet to receive a reply. Its letter (5) asked him to extend an official welcome to the spiritual leader and to:
demonstrate that you put the principles that guide our democracy and respect for human rights above the blatant and illegitimate attempts by the government of China to impose its will on British policy… [Shunning the Dalai Lama] sends a message to Beijing that instead of engaging in dialogue to promote the peaceful resolution of the ongoing crisis in Tibet, it can continue with the repression that has caused Tibetans such deep distress and provoked unceasing resistance.
Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren said:
“How politicians respond to China’s strategy to vilify and isolate the Dalai Lama is a real litmus test of their commitment to democracy and human rights. It looks like David Cameron has failed that test but Boris Johnson has a chance to show that he can do better. The people of Tibet risk their lives to stand up to China’s intimidation – surely the Mayor of London can risk a few strong words from the ambassador. As China’s government well knows, meeting the Dalai Lama doesn’t mean you support independence for Tibet. It just means you have the backbone to stand up to a bully.”
More than 300 Free Tibet supporters have also contacted the Mayor to ask him to welcome the Dalai Lama.
Jenny Jones AM
M: 07786 277376
Notes to editors
The Dalai Lama is currently in the UK. He has public speaking engagements in London on 19 and 20 September and will be meeting MPs in the House of Commons on 22 September. http://tibet.net/2015/09/his-holiness-the-dalai-lama-to-visit-oxford-cambridge-and-london-during-14-22-september-uk-tour/ He visited the UK for two days in June this year to attend the Glastonbury festival but did not come to London.
BBC News 16 May 2012 http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-18084223
According to the Greater London Authority, London receives 60% of all Chinese direct foreign investment in the UK and development deals are worth billions of pounds. Before his 2013 trip, Boris Johnson said “I will be taking every chance we can to promote London as the best big city to invest in. The ties between London and China have grown strong over many hundreds of years - this trip aimed at making that bond even stronger." Source: GLA press release, 11 October 2013 https://www.london.gov.uk/media/mayor-press-releases/2013/10/mayor-of-london-leads-top-business-delegation-on-trade-mission
Huffington Post, 13 October http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/10/13/boris-johnson-china_n_4092182.html
Copy of letter available from Free Tibet