Meeting Dalai Lama a major offence: China

State Governor, Chief Minister Possibly Restricted By Centre From Attending Peace Conference

STAFF REPORTER/AGENCIES IMPHAL, 22nd Oct: Days after spiritual leader the Dalai Lama came to Imphal, China on Saturday warned the world leaders and politicians against meeting exiled figured, saying it would be perceived as a “major offence” as the spiritual leader is a “separatist” trying to carve out an independent Tibet.

Meanwhile, there are speculations about possible instructions from the Union Home Ministry to Governor of Manipur Dr Najma Heptulla and Chief Minister N Biren, who were conspicuous by their absence, against their participation in the peace and harmony conference held at City Convention Centre, Imphal on October 18.

Sources said that Dr Heptulla, N Biren and titular king of Manipur Leishemba Sanajaoba were among the listed dignitaries scheduled speak at the conference. However, none of them attended the conference.

Though king Leishemba Sanajaoba was pre-occupied with the ‘Lanna Thouram’ (last rites) of Queen Mother Tampha, which took place on the same day, the absence of the Governor and the Chief Minister has raised doubts if the Centre instructed them to stay away from the conference in view of the current volatile relationship between China and India. Mention may be made that China and India had a standoff at Doklam recently.

According to a political analyst, there are possibilities of the Centre instructing the two government representatives to refrain from attending the conference fearing possible resurfacing of hostilities between China and India. Chief Minister Biren and speaker of Manipur Legislative Assembly Y Khemchand received the Dalai Lama when the latter arrived at Imphal Airport the day before. China has been closely monitoring the movement of Dalai Lama.

Meanwhile, Zhang Yijiong, who heads the Communist Party’s Tibet working group, told reporters on the sidelines of a party congress that there could be no excuses to meeting the Dalai Lama.

Foreign officials also can’t get away by saying they were meeting the exiled Tibetan leader in a personal capacity as they still represent their governments, Zhang Yijiong said.

“Although some people say, the Dalai Lama is a religious figure, our government didn’t put in an appearance, it was just individual officials, this is incorrect,” said Zhang, who is also a vice minister at the United Front Work Department, which has led failed talks with the Dalai Lama’s representatives.

“Officials, in their capacity as officials, attending all foreign-related activities represent their governments. So I hope governments around the world speak and act with caution and give full consideration on their friendship with China and their respect for China’s sovereignty,” he added.

“Any country, or any organisation of anyone, accepting to meet with the Dalai Lama, in our view, is a major offence to the sentiment of the Chinese people,” said Zhang.

“After fleeing China in 1959, he established a so-called government-in-exile, whose goal and core agenda is the independence of Tibet and to separate (from) China. For decades, the group headed by the 14th Dalai Lama has never stopped such attempts,” he said.

Though Zhang did not mention any particular country, China has repeatedly protested against the Dalai Lama’s contacts with top Indian leaders such as former president Pranab Mukherjee. Beijing has also protested against the Tibetan leader’s visit to the northeastern state of Arunachal Pradesh, which is claimed by China.

Beijing was furious when the Dalai Lama visited Arunachal Pradesh earlier this year — which China claims as part of south Tibet — and alleged New Delhi was trying to undermine its interests by “using” the Nobel laureate.

“The Dalai Lama’s visit to Arunachal Pradesh had a negative impact on India-China ties. India should observe commitment on Tibet-related issues and should not use the Dalai Lama to undermine China’s interests,” foreign ministry spokesman Lu Kang had said in April.

However, the Chinese officials did not mention the visit of Dalai Lama in Manipur and his conference held in the state’s capital on October 18.

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