(TibetanReview.net, Apr24, 2014) – As the Dalai Lama’s May 7-9 visit to Norway’s capital Oslo to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize approaches nearer, calls on the country’s parliament leadership to receive him with the honour and dignity due to his global standing grows louder. On Apr 22, Harald Stanghelle, the political editor of the country’s Aftenposten newspaper, severely criticized the parliament’s president, Olemic Thommessen, for cowardice after he declined to offer an official meeting with the Dalai Lama.
The editorial also criticized the president’s decision to refuse to allow Members of Parliament who wanted to bring the Tibetan spiritual leader into the parliament buildings to use the grand Lagting hall, or to allow the Dalai Lama to enter by the main entrance.
“Political Norway wants to force the Nobel prize winning Dalai Lama to go through the back door when he enters Parliament,” thelocal.no Apr 22 quoted Stanghelle as saying in his article. “It is so pitiful that it could even be dangerous.”
The report quoted Ketil Kjenseth, the Liberal Democrat MP who heads the Parliament’s Tibet committee, as saying he would ensure that the Tibetan leader entered the parliament through the front gates, even if that meant defying the leadership. “Unless someone refuses to let me use the door I am entitled to as a member of parliament, I’m going to take the Dalai Lama into the parliament through the main entrance,” he has told the Aftenposten.
Meanwhile, Olemic Thommessen has denied the cowardice charge. “I think I have made a decision that is responsible and appropriate to safeguarding Norwegian interests. This is not a capitulation to China. This is a matter of not making the situation between China and Norway harder,” thelocal.no Apr 23 quoted him as having told Aftenposten.
He has said his action was designed, according to tnp.no Apr 23, “to give a clear signal that we want to improve relations with a superpower that has a key role in discussing global issues, climate change, human rights or democracy.”
Norway’s political leadership has been struggling to repair relations with China after the Norwegian Nobel Committee awarded the Peace Prize to jailed Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo in 2010. China has demanded that Norway take steps to undo the wrong, even though the government said it had no role in determining the Nobel Peace Prize winner.
Meanwhile, Reuters Apr 23 reported that China had expressed resolute opposition to the Dalai Lama’s visit to Norway, or any meeting with him by Norwegian leaders. It added that Norway’s prime minister and the foreign minister had both turned down invitations to meet him.
The report also cited China’s foreign ministry, which had already condemned the visit in Dec 2013, as saying it was opposed to any country giving a platform to the Dalai Lama’s views. “We resolutely oppose any foreign country providing a platform or convenience for the Dalai Lama’s splittist words and acts and oppose him meeting any foreign leader,” the ministry spokesman Qin Gang was quoted as saying during a daily news briefing.
Norway’s political leaders’ views are not shared by the public, according to an opinion poll. A poll by daily VG showed that 6 out of 10 Norwegians think the prime minister and the foreign minister should meet the Dalai Lama and 5 out of 10 think it is cowardly not to meet him. Only 14 per cent think they should not meet him.
The report also noted that while diplomatic ties between Norway and China had floundered, trade was flourishing. It added that in the first three months of the year, Norwegian exports to China had risen 30 per cent while imports were up six per cent.