Tibet: Australian University Cancelled Talk With Dalai Lama
[email protected] Michael Ihl
One of Australia's most exclusive universities, the University of Sydney, has been accused of bowing to China after calling off a talk to students by the Dalai Lama.
Below is an article published by The Guardian:
Sydney University, ranked in the world's top 50, cancelled the visit by the Nobel peace laureate, scheduled for June , to avoid damaging its ties with China, including funding for its cultural Confucius Institute, Tibetan activists and Australian politicians said.
"As a democratic country, we should be encouraging more open and frank discussion about the current situation in Tibet, not banning the country's spiritual leader from addressing students and staff at universities," said the Greens senator Sarah Hanson-Young, whose party wields the balance of power in the upper house of parliament.
The prime minister, Julia Gillard, was heavily criticised for refusing to meet the Dalai Lama during a visit in 2011 to avoid damaging two-way trade worth $120bn last year. This month [April 2013] she led a trade delegation to meet the Chinese premier, Li Keqiang, with the countries agreeing to a new strategic partnership including yearly talks between leaders on foreign policy and economics.
China's human rights record in Tibet remains a controversial issue in Australia, and Sydney University's new Institute for Democracy and Human Rights organised an on-campus talk by the Dalai Lama during his 10-day visit.
The event was moved off campus after the university warned organisers not to use its logo, allow media coverage or entry to the event by Tibet activists.
In emails obtained by Australian television, the university vice-chancellor Michael Spence expressed relief at the outcome, reportedly praising it as "in the best interests of researchers across the university".
A university spokesman said senior academic management never received an official request to host the Dalai Lama, but acknowledged a decision was taken to move the event. "The university decided that there was a better way of doing it. A small group, a small section of the student body, was really not the best thing," the spokesman said.
Kyinzom Dhongdue, a pro-Tibetan independence spokeswoman for the Australia Tibet Council, said the university had given in to China. "They have compromised their academic freedom and integrity, and it also sends a disheartening message to the Tibetan people," she said.
More than 100 Tibetans have set themselves alight since 2009 in protest against Chinese rule, mostly in the heavily Tibetan areas of Sichuan, Gansu and Qinghai provinces rather than in the Tibet Autonomous Region of China. Most have died.
Last month [March 2013] a Chinese official accused the Dalai Lama of providing money to encourage people to set themselves on fire, and said they had evidence to prove he was instigating the self-immolations.
China brands the Dalai Lama, who fled into exile in India in 1959 after an abortive uprising against Chinese rule of Tibet, as a separatist. The Dalai Lama says he is merely seeking more autonomy for his Himalayan homeland.