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Dalai Lama Glastonbury trip slammed

Published 26/06/2015

The Dalai Lama is to appear at the Glastonbury festival and open a Buddhist community centre in Hampshire during a visit to the UK
The Dalai Lama is to appear at the Glastonbury festival and open a Buddhist community centre in Hampshire during a visit to the UK

The Chinese Government has spoken out about the Dalai Lama's appearance at the Glastonbury Festival, saying it is strongly opposed to any organisation which gives the exiled spiritual leader a platform.

The 79-year-old Tibetan is set to appear at the festival on Sunday to promote his message of "compassion, non-violence and the oneness of humanity", his representatives said.

But Chinese foreign affairs ministry spokesman Lu Kang claimed the Dalai Lama could use the visit for the purposes of "conducting anti-China secessionist activities in the name of religion".

Beijing's Xinhua news agency reported foreign ministry spokesman Mr Lu told a daily press briefing: " We oppose any organisation using any means to offer occasion for the Dalai Lama to conduct anti-China secessionist moves."

Downing Street steered clear of the row, with the Prime Minister's spokeswoman saying it was an issue for festival-goers when a sked if David Cameron was concerned about Chinese displeasure.

The Dalai Lama's visit has also raised security fears, with hundreds of people expected at protests against his presence in the UK.

After his Glastonbury appearance, the Dalai Lama is travelling to Aldershot in Hampshire, where he will open a Buddhist community centre.

His visit will be marked by protests by the International Shugden Community (ISC), who claim the Dalai Lama is engaged in the persecution of Shugden Buddhists in Tibetan exile.

MP Tim Loughton, of the all-party parliamentary group on Tibet, said the Dalai Lama had been "afforded no police protection" and raised concerns that the spiritual leader's free speech was being "put at risk".

The Tory former minister has written to Home Secretary Theresa May to request police protection for the Dalai Lama.

He said: "Despite requests from his representatives, no security arrangements are in place.

"It's extraordinary given his status and the fact that every other country, with the exception of Latvia, have provided security."

The ISC claims media reports have shown religious intolerance and segregation practices, including signs above shops and medical facilities refusing service to people of the Shugden faith.

An ISC spokeswoman said the Dalai Lama had escaped media scrutiny due to his "cult celebrity status".

She said: "This 'humble Buddhist monk', as he likes to call himself, makes vast sums of money out of Buddha's teachings, sports Gucci loafers and Rolex watches, and stays in five-star hotels whilst applying ruthless religious intolerance towards his own people who live in poverty, hardship and fear."

Sonam Lama, a Tibetan ISC member, said: "The Dalai Lama is used to being a religious dictator and ruling without dissent or dialogue.

"People in the west think that the Dalai Lama stands for peace and tolerance, but we Tibetans know better. He has no tolerance or compassion for anyone who disagrees with him."

An alliance of 10 UK Buddhist organisations have formally dissociated themselves from the protests, saying they are "very concerned about the protesters' aggressive, misleading and unethical behaviour".

The alliance, including the Buddhist Society, said differences of opinion among followers of the religion "should be expressed in a peaceful, respectful, truthful and reasonable manner".

They said: "We are very concerned about the protesters' aggressive, misleading and unethical behaviour, and the false image being presented to the public.

"The UK Buddhist organisations signed up to this statement express their respect and support for His Holiness' stance on promoting wider religious harmony between the religious traditions and on promoting mutual respect and admiration between the Buddhist traditions."

They described the ISC as a "highly sectarian" group which had been staging aggressive protests during the Dalai Lama's visits to the US, Australia and Europe.

Its aim "is to destroy the religious and moral authority of His Holiness the Dalai Lama", they said. "This also suits the Chinese Communist Party very well."

A Foreign Office spokeswoman said: "The Dalai Lama is an important religious figure, and he has visited the UK on many occasions.

"We are aware this is a sensitive issue. It has been raised with us by a number of different groups, including representatives of the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Embassy."

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