(TibetanReview.net, Oct22, 2016) – Despite criticisms and warnings from China, the Italian city of Milan on Oct 20 bestowed honorary citizenship on Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. China claims that the 1989 Nobel Peace Laureate campaigns to split Tibet from China although he has for decades been only seeking genuine autonomy for his otherwise occupied homeland.
The head of Milan city council, Lamberto Bertolè, presented the laurel to the Dalai Lama, ahead of a talk set up for him by Milan’s Bicocca University at the Arcimboldi theatre, reported ansa.it/English Oct 20. He was presented with a symbolic key to the city and a scroll representing Milan’s freedom, thelocal.it Oct 20 cited local media as reporting.
The ansa.it/English report said loud applause rang out and Tibetan flags were waved as the Dalai Lama got the gong.
Later on the Arcimboldi stage, Bicocca University Dean Cristina Messa said, “this meeting does not intend to offend anyone”.
Earlier in the day, at a meeting on his first day in Italy, Milan Archbishop Angelo Scola said, “your presence, Holiness, is an encouragement to proceed even more swiftly along the path of dialogue”. Milan mayor Giuseppe Sala had earlier greeted the Dalai Lama at the city’s Linate airport.
The Chinese Embassy in Rome had, on the eve of the Dalai Lama’s arrival, strongly protested against Milan city council’s plans to honour him, saying it would have a negative impact on bilateral relations and regional cooperation, reported AP Oct 20. It cited the embassy as having said in a statement that honouring the Dalai Lama “has seriously wounded the feelings of the Chinese people” and expressed its “strong protest and firm opposition.”
Also, in Beijing, a Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman told reporters that China opposed any official meeting with the Dalai Lama and asked that countries respect “China’s grave concerns,” reported The Canadian Press Oct 20.
The report said that in an interview with the Italian daily La Repubblica the Dalai Lama had said that the climate in Tibet “remains extremely grim and repressive, characterized by constant controls of Tibetans, who are denied many basic human rights.”
“Whether they admit it or not, Tibet remains a thorn for China, which wants to play an important role in the world,” he was quoted as saying.
When asked about the around 100 Chinese demonstrations protesting against his visit, the Dalai Lama said that Chinese embassies often organized protests against him, and that some protesters didn’t know what they were protesting about, said thelocal.it report.