PM has no plans to meet Dalai Lama as China warns against meeting

The Chinese government says a potential meeting between the Dalai Lama and Prime Minister Turnbull would 'definitely' damage Australia-China relations

Dalai Lama and Malcolm Turnbull

The Chinesehas warned the Australia against Malcolm Turnbull meeting the Dalai Lama. Source: AAP

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull's office has confirmed he has no plans to meet with the Dalai Lama.

It added he had never met with exiled Tibetan leader during his time as Prime Minister.

The China-Tibetan Cultural Exchange Delegation visited Canberra on Wednesday to promote the Tibet Autonomous Region and a dialogue with Australia.

The delegation included Tibetan people employed in the Chinese administration.

When asked whether any potential meeting between the Dalai Lama and Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull would harm relations with China, one Chinese official said it would.

"He [the Dalai Lama] has been leading separatist activities against China since his exile so this is not acceptable to us,” Wang Yanwen of the State Council Information Office said.

"It would definitely damage our relations."

The Dalai Lama was scheduled to visit Australia in 2017, on what would have been his 11th visit, but it was cancelled.

The Dalai Lama met then prime minister John Howard in 2007.

The State Council Information Office is one of the Chinese government's chief sources of promoting China and its policy stances.

It said Australia should take an “impartial and objective and fair attitude” in deciding how it approaches the contentious issue of China-Tibet relations.

“I have confidence in the Australian government doing things that help to grow our ties rather than being misled and support[ing] activities that seek to separate China,” Ms Wang said.

“What we hope is to make real good friends with Australia, to help each other and deliver mutual benefits, rather than talking friendly on the surface while doing bad things behind each others' back.”

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama fled his homeland in 1959 after the failed Tibetan Uprising. He has been living in exile ever since.

The Chinese Communist Party maintains Tibet has long been a part of China, while critics say the region is occupied.

Earlier this year, the chief executive of the Tibetan Government In-Exile, Lobsang Sangay, visited Australia and called for genuine Tibetan involvement in choosing the region's rulers.

Tibetans confident poverty will be lifted

The delegation to Canberra included 55-year-old Pubu, a Tibetan man who is a senior member of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference in the Shannan Prefecture of the Tibet Autonomous Region.

"We set the goal of lifting everyone out of poverty by 2018," Mr Pubu said.

"We have more than 2.6 million people under the coverage of publicly funded social programs."

Multiple human rights groups have condemned China's treatment of Tibetan people.

According to Human Rights Watch, Tibetans “continue to face routine denial of basic freedoms of speech, assembly, and movement”.

The US State Department last year described the human rights situation in Tibet as "poor".

"The [Chinese] government engaged in the severe repression of Tibet’s unique religious, cultural, and linguistic heritage by, among other means, strictly curtailing the civil rights of the Tibetan population, including the freedoms of speech, religion, association, assembly, and movement," it said.

But the delegation to Canberra told journalists China's ruling party was making momentous efforts to protect the cultural and environmental heritage of the region.

"Tibetan culture, it’s far from being extinct. Quite on the contrary; it has been properly preserved and it has prospered," Mr Pubu said.

"I think it’s undeniable that Tibetan culture is at its best time in history."

Only 5 per cent have human rights violated: Chinese academic

Also a part of the delegation was China Tibetology Research Centre Professor Wang Xiaobin, who lived in Tibet for more than a decade.

Tibetans who followed the Dalai Lama had turned the region into a "feudal serfdom" under "autocratic rule"  before the 1959 uprising, he said.

"The Communist Part of China only violates the human rights of the 5 per cent of people who rule the region and they do so to protect the human rights of the 95 per cent of the Tibetan people," Professor Xioabin said.

"The Dalai Lama opposes such forces and movements. That’s the reason he chose to go into exile."

4 min read
Published 30 August 2017 at 3:03pm
By Myles Morgan