Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 21 September 2014

Snub to Dalai Lama helps us to build bridges with China

The Dalai Lama of Tibetís visited Derry during last month's Culture of Compassion event for Children in Crossfire

Did anyone wonder that there were no official receptions, or no meeting with ministers, during the Dalai Lama's visit to Londonderry last month?

Once a separatist, the exiled leader is now looking for Tibet to have a devolved relationship with China, not unlike the one between Stormont and Westminster.

In Derry, he crossed the peace bridge with Catholic and Protestant schoolchildren before saying, "There is no alternative to the peace process".

So it did seem strange that the First Minister and the deputy First Minister passed on the photo-op. Strange, that is, until you realise that they are both planning a return visit to China soon and Beijing frowns on politicians who meet the Tibetan spiritual leader and penalises them, if it can.

They see it as giving recognition to Tibetan independence from China. David Cameron, the prime minister, is currently in Beijing's sin-bin for meeting and being photographed with the Dalai Lama at St Paul's cathedral.

Plans to visit China in the autumn are on hold and a proposed visit by Li Keqiang, the Chinese premier, to Britain is in doubt. Billions in investment and trade is also said to be in jeopardy, as China demands an apology.

Could cold-shouldering the Tibetan monk be an opportunity for our leaders to nip in and get some of that Chinese investment for their own patch?

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