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Norway’s top lawmaker, long a Tibet supporter, to avoid Dalai Lama

(TibetanReview.net, Apr11, 2014) – Though a long-time supporter of the Tibetan cause until very recently, Mr Olemic Thommessen, now the President of Norway’s Parliament (Stortinget), has said he won’t meet with the Dalai Lama when the latter visits Oslo in May 2014, reported newsinenglish.no Apr 9. He has said it had become more important to repair relations with China which had remained frayed after jailed Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010.

Given this situation, Thommessen has said it was not in Norway’s best interest for him to meet the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama visits Oslo to mark the 25th anniversary of the conferment of the Nobel Peace Prize on him.

The report noted that Thommessen of the Conservative Party (Høyre) headed the Parliament’s Tibet committee until last autumn, and was a vocal supporter of defending human rights and condemning abuses. He and the now Conservative Prime Minister, Erna Solberg, had raised the issue of Tibet in Parliament in 2008. They demanded the government engage more strongly with the human rights issue in China, and keep pressure on the authorities in the wake of the Beijing Olympics.

Thommessen had raised the issue again in 2009, calling on the government to hold more talks with Chinese authorities following troubling reports of human rights abuses from Amnesty International. In 2012 he took part in the Tibet committee’s flame relay, raising awareness about more than 100 Tibetan monks and nuns who had set themselves on fire since 2009 in protest against Chinese oppression.

The report quoted Thommessen as having now told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) on Apr 8, referring to the continuing diplomatic freeze with China: “I will not rekindle the current difficult situation. That we’re not in dialogue now is also a human rights issue. We must continually evaluate what is in Norway’s interest. Such an evaluation indicates that, as the country’s highest-ranked politician, I shouldn’t meet him now.”

The report noted that it was one of Thommessen’s political colleagues, Jan Tore Sanner of the Conservatives, who had nominated Liu to the Norwegian Nobel Committee and when the committee awarded Liu the prize, China demanded an apology.

China has since then kept demanding that Norway repair the bilateral relationship, even though neither the Norwegian government nor the Norwegian parliament has any say in who actually wins the Nobel Peace Prize.

The report noted that when the Dalai Lama visited Norway in 2005, he was received by the then-prime minister Kjell Magne Bondevik and the top politician who was holding Thommessen’s position at the time, Jørgen Kosmo. It cited NRK as having noted that in 2000, the Dalai Lama met with the now-Foreign Minister Børge Brende, who led the Tibet committee at the time, and the then parliamentary president Kirsti Kolle Grøndahl.

Olav Gunnar Ballo, another former leader of the Tibet committee, has called it a shame that Norway’s leading politicians haven’t come out in support of the Dalai Lama, that it was cowardly that appeasing China now seemed to take precedence over human rights issues that were so actively brandished in the past.

The report noted that Norway had supported Tibet since it was occupied by China in 1951, and there was a general political agreement over raising abuses and human rights issues with Chinese authorities through international diplomatic channels.

On the positive side, the report said that politicians who will meet with the Dalai Lama included the Liberal (Venstre) leader Trine Skei Grande, the only party leader to accept the invitation thus far. Liberal Ketil Kjenseth, who now heads the Tibet committee, will host a reception for the Dalai Lama and this will be open to other politicians willing to meet him. Also, the Sami Parliamentary President will meet the exiled spiritual leader of Tibet, as will Thorbjørn Jagland and the rest of the Nobel Committee.

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