Dalai Lama

Dalai Lama pays ‘friendly’ visit to Prague

Tibetan spiritual leader shrugs off PM’s refusal to meet

The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso told journalists Dec. 12 that he regretted not being invited to officially meet with members of the Czech government during his three-day stay in Prague but said talking politics with national leaders was not the reason for his trip.

Prime Minister Petr Nečas (ODS) and President Václav Klaus both refused to meet with the Dalai Lama, who was in town on an invitation from longtime friend and former President Václav Havel. Those two met for about an hour shortly after the Dalai Lama’s arrival Dec. 10. Heads of state often are wary of officially receiving the Dalai Lama during his many international goodwill trips as such meetings are viewed as potential threats to relations with China.

“The reason for my visit was friendly,” the Dalai Lama said during a Dec. 12 press conference.

“I’m not here for political reasons, and I do not have an agenda, politically, to meet with anybody. Any time someone does not want to meet with me, it is a source of disappointment, but I also do not want to inconvenience anybody.”

According to Oldřich Černý, chairman of Havel’s Forum 2000 Foundation, which hosted the Dalai Lama, Havel personally welcomed the Dalai Lama “to a country where the people love you, but politicians fear you.”

The 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso, invited by longtime friend Vaclav Havel, also met with Foreign Affairs Minister Schwarzenberg.

Foreign Affairs Minister Karel Schwarzenberg (TOP 09), another friend of the Dalai Lama, was the only active member of the government to meet with him, albeit in an unofficial capacity.
“Our friendship is based on us being human beings,” the Dalai Lama said. “It’s not based on power. We talked as friends, and he asked about the situation in Tibet.”

The Dalai Lama took part in a round-table debate Dec. 11 about human rights in Asia with Havel, Chinese dissident and scholar Yang Jianli and former French Foreign Minister Bernard Kouchner. He made headlines by claiming that Western fears of China’s growing power have greatly diminished the benefits the country could give to the world. He also said that, despite being a Buddhist monk, he is a Marxist and is not against socialism.

Additionally, he and Havel signed an appeal to the international community asking leaders to support political dissidents.

But at his Dec. 12 meeting with the media, he said he no longer wished to discuss politics.
“I know you will all ask political questions,” he joked, before refusing to comment on several questions he deemed “too political.”

His unwillingness to discuss politics, he said, stems from his decision over the summer to hand over rule of the Tibetan government-in-exile to democratically elected representatives. Dalai Lamas will no longer serve as Tibetan political leaders, he said.

“I go to Washington and Brussels, and I sometimes have political reasons,” he said. “But this visit is friendly, not about politics and scandal.”

In response to one journalist’s question about the continuing Tibetan struggle with China for self-rule, the Dalai Lama offered only philosophical thoughts.

“I am still an adviser, and we must be realistic,” he said. “Any unrealistic approach will end in disaster. In Tibet, there are 6 million [people]. In China, there are thousands of millions. We know things aren’t easy, so we plan realistically. So there is no reason for us to feel frustration.”

The Dalai Lama did comment on the 75-year-old Havel’s ailing health. Havel arrived to meet the Dalai Lama in a wheelchair and has been suffering from respiratory illnesses for several months.
“His physical condition was quite weak,” he said. “I told him I would act like a Tibetan physician to him. I will give him some suggestions.”

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