Dalai Lama says human rights must feature in China ties (Lead)

May 22nd, 2008 - 12:02 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Gordon Brown
London, May 21 (DPA) The Dalai Lama, the exiled Tibetan leader, warned Britain and other western nations Wednesday not to forget human rights in their efforts to forge closer links with China. “The economy is important, but human values are more important,” the 72-year-old spiritual leader told a news conference in the imposing Westminster Hall next to British Parliament in London.

He understood the importance of economic relations and believed it was wrong to isolate China, said the Dalai Lama, who also had strong words of praise for the Chinese authorities’ response to the earthquake in Sichuan.

“I was always against the isolation of China. Not good. China is a very important nation we must respect. As Tibetans say, if you are a true friend, a close friend, then it is important to make clear the wrong things about your friend in a friendly manner,” said the Dalai Lama.

He also made a direct appeal to the people of Tibet not to disrupt the passage of the Olympic torch through Tibet next month.

“I appeal particularly to inside Tibet to not disturb…the torch when they visit,” said the Dalai Lama.

“I made clear right from the beginning we fully support the Olympic Games. The Olympic Torch is part of that. We must respect, we must protect that.”

In answer to questions, the Dalai Lama even suggested that he would be prepared to visit the Beijing Games in August, if he were invited, and if current talks with China on Tibetan autonomy proved fruitful.

“It very much depends on our meeting. If the situation in Tibet and some kind of long-term solution happens, then I am happy to go there - if the invitation comes,” said the Dalai Lama.

But later, he said it would only become clear after the Games whether the Chinese were serious about the talks or whether they were “only for the Olympics”. “That we have to see.”

The Dalai Lama also appeared to reject suggestions that Britain, and other western nations, were kow-towing to the Chinese and seeking not to offend Beijing over the delicate Tibet issue.

“Basically my visit is non-political. The media politicizes,” he said in a clear reference to widespread criticism over a decision by

British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to meet the religious leader at a venue outside Downing Street, the seat of the British government.

The Dalai Lama said he would use his meeting with Brown Friday to thank him for the “genuine concern” the British leader had shown for Tibet.

“Of course, during our meeting I will express my appreciation that the prime minister is showing genuine concern for Tibet - so I want to express my thanks,” said the Dalai Lama.

Although Brown is the first major Western leader to meet the Dalai Lama since the recent unrest in Tibet, he has chosen to do so at the Lambeth Palace, the London residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury, and not the seat of government.

Brown’s spokesman stressed Wednesday that the substance of the meeting, and the fact that it would take place at all, was more important than where it was being held.

British government sources have said that human rights issues would be raised in the talks.

Meanwhile, it was confirmed Wednesday that Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, would receive the Dalai Lama for private talks at his London residence, Clarence House, Thursday.

The two men, who have met before in 1991, 2001 and 2004, would plant a tree in the garden of Clarence House to commemorate the current visit.

Speaking in broken English, and dressed in the traditional crimson robes of a Buddhist monk, the Dalai Lama prompted laughter when he described himself as “semi-retired” and eager to make “some preparation for my next life.”

“I have to take my own rebirth - hopefully a more positive rebirth, not a negative rebirth,” he said.

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