Sat, Jun 14, 2008 - Page 5 News List

Dalai Lama meets acting Aussie leader

AP , SYDNEY

The Dalai Lama held talks yesterday with Australia's acting leader, drawing a rebuke from Beijing.

With Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and his No. 2 Julia Gillard both out of the country, that left Senator Chris Evans, the upper house of parliament leader and acting prime minister, the most senior government official available to meet with the Dalai Lama.

They held brief talks and a photo opportunity yesterday morning in a hotel near where the Dalai Lama is delivering a series of Buddhist lectures in Sydney.

A statement from Evans’ office said the senator had welcomed the Dalai Lama to Australia and the two had open and informative talks.

“The Dalai Lama provided his perspective on the situation in Tibet and his interest in engaging in dialogue with China in the lead up to the Olympic Games,” the statement said.

Evans “expressed the Australian government’s keenness to encourage both the Dalai Lama and China to continue their dialogue.”

Envoys of the Dalai Lama and Chinese officials held informal talks early last month on ways to end unrest in Tibet, which flared in March and killed at least 22 people in anti-Chinese government protests and a subsequent crackdown by security forces.

The Dalai Lama said on Thursday he hoped a round of formal talks between his envoys and Chinese officials would take place next month. Beijing says the timing of any meeting is still being discussed.

Meetings between political leaders and the Dalai Lama normally provoke strong criticism from China, which considers the Tibetan leader a separatist and that such meetings are part of a campaign against Chinese rule in the Himalayan territory.

But the Dalai Lama enjoys popular support around the world and is often greeted by national leaders as a peace advocate and spiritual leader.

Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Qin Gang (秦剛) on Thursday reiterated Beijing’s common criticism of the Dalai Lama during foreign visits and asked Australia to take note.

“We firmly oppose any countries providing support or convenience for Dalai’s engagement in separatist activities,” Qin said. “We request Australia to pay attention to our grave concern and do not allow Dalai to be engaged in separatist activities on Australian territory.”

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