China’s Dalai Lama-boycott call at UN sideline event ignored

His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during the panel discussion on 'Nobel Laureates on Human Rights - A view from civil society' in Geneva, Switzerland on March 11, 2016. (Photo courtesy/Olivier Adam/OHHDL)
His Holiness the Dalai Lama speaking during the panel discussion on ‘Nobel Laureates on Human Rights – A view from civil society’ in Geneva, Switzerland on March 11, 2016. (Photo courtesy/Olivier Adam/OHHDL)

(, Mar12’16) – China demanded that the event be boycotted, especially targeting diplomats and UN officials, but to its chagrin the Dalai Lama on Mar 11 addressed a packed-house at Geneva’s Graduate Institute as a part of a Nobel Peace laureate panel organized by the United States and Canada on the sidelines of the UN Human rights Council. The day before, on Mar 10, the 57th anniversary of the Tibetan National Uprising Day, the US and 11 other Western countries expressed concerns about human rights in China and Tibet at the Human Rights Council.

As the Dalai Lama attended the conference, which was on the theme of Nobel Laureates on Human Rights – A view from civil society, Hundreds of his supporters, some waving Tibetan flags, rallied at the giant three-legged chair landmark outside the UN, reported AP Mar 11.

Earlier, in its continuing campaign of intimidation, obstruction and harassment that Western diplomats and activists say is aimed at silencing criticism of its human rights record at the United Nations, China tried to pressure diplomats and UN officials by demanding that they stayed away from the scheduled panel due to the presence of the Dalai Lama. The UN said, however, that it was not bound by instructions from member states.

In fact, UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights, Kate Gilmore, the panel’s moderator, was said to be one of the first senior UN officials to meet the Dalai Lama.

Writing to diplomats and UN officials, China had indicated that they should boycott the event for its sake, alleging that the 1989 Nobel Peace laureate engaged in “separatist activities”, reported Reuters Mar 11. The Dalai Lama, on the other hand, only seeks meaningful autonomy for his homeland, something on which Beijing does not at all want to hold any dialogue.

Making a point of emphasizing the seriousness of its demand, the letter said, according to the report: “Inviting the 14th Dalai Lama to the aforementioned event violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of China, in contravention of the purposes and principles of the UN Charter. China resolutely opposes the 14th Dalai Lama’s separatist activities in whatever capacity and in whatever name in any country, organisation or event.”

The letter was reported to be dated Mar 8, the day the event was announced. It was reported to begin thus: “The Permanent Mission of China kindly requests the Permanent Missions of all Member States, UN agencies and relevant International Organizations not to attend the above-mentioned event, nor meet the 14th Dalai Lama and his clique.”

The report cited UN spokesman in Geneva Ahmad Fawzi as confirming that UN agencies and offices in the Swiss city had received China’s letter. However, he has asserted, “We take note but of course we are not bound by instructions from member states.”

The report also cited Philippe Burrin, director of the Geneva institute, as saying “pressures are being applied from various sides” but the event would not be cancelled. “This is a question of freedom of expression and academic freedom to organise an event.”

He has also said, “It is not an event on Tibet, it is not on a politically sensitive subject, ie territorial issues, but on the role of civil society in promoting human rights.”

The panel event was reported to have also featured Nobel laureates from Iran and Yemen.


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