Brussels, 11-14 May 2007 - Dalai Lama cancels after Chinese pressure
In a statement to be publicly released later Wednesday, His Holiness the Dalai Lama said he decided not to attend a gathering of Tibetan groups in Brussels on Friday to save Belgium any trouble. The statement did not specify the pressure China exerted.
"The Belgian government shared with me their predicament on account of pressure from the People's Republic of China," the Dalai Lama's statement said. "Having considered the situation, I have decided not to visit Brussels this time." Beijing has for years mounted an aggressive lobbying campaign against the Dalai Lama, seeking to deny international legitimacy to the Nobel Peace Prize winner and undermine his enduring popularity in Chinese-controlled Tibet.
Like many European countries, Belgium is actively seeking ways to boost trade with the world's fastest-growing large economy, and Crown Prince Philippe is expected to head a 300-member trade delegation to Beijing next week. Belgium's ambassador to Beijing, Bernard Pierre, declined to confirm that Brussels had come under Chinese pressure and referred inquiries to the Belgian Foreign Ministry.
"It is indefensible that Belgium, a founding member of the European Union, should acquiesce to China in its attempts to silence the Dalai Lama, one of the world's greatest men of Peace," Mary Beth Markey of the Washington-based International Campaign for Tibet said.