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Swiss government backs away from Dalai Lama

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Swiss government backs away from Dalai Lama
The 14th Dalai Lama, whose religious name is Tenzin Gyatso. Photo: AFP
11:08 CEST+02:00
The Dalai Lama will meet members of Swiss parliament for the first time during a visit to Switzerland starting on Saturday but members of the seven-person federal cabinet will not be receiving the Tibetan spiritual leader.

“We are going to profit from this rather exceptional meeting with the Dalai Lama to receive information from him,” Robert Cramer, a Green party MP from Geneva told the ATS news agency.

“You should know that a group of parliamentarians representing all the parties support him,” said Cramer, who is a member of a Swiss-Tibet interparliamentary group.

Conscious of its ties with China, the Swiss federal government has apparently avoided meeting with the Dalai Lama, who fled from Tibet in 1959 after the Chinese Communists suppressed an uprising in the state.

He escaped to India where he established a Tibetan government in exile.

Winner of the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize, the 77-year-old travels around the world advocating for the welfare of Tibetans and teaching Tibetan Buddhism.

The attitude of the Swiss government “does not denote much courage, but it’s not a revelation,” Cramer said.

“It should be, on the other hand, a preoccupation (for the government).”

He noted that Switzerland has the largest Tibetan colony outside of Asia.

As a guardian of the Geneva conventions, the government should be more actively defending human rights, Cramer said.

Doris Fiala, Liberal party MP from Zurich, also regretted the fact members of the federal government will not be meeting the Tibetan leader.

“Chiefs of state such as Barack Obama or Angela Merkel have received the Dalai Lama,” she told ATS.

“This should not represent a diplomatic difficulty for (the Swiss government) receiving him also.”

The department of foreign affairs (DFA) downplayed the controversy.

The federal government did not receive a request to receive the Tibetan leader, ATS reported the department as saying.

However, the Dalai Lama will be personally received in the federal parliament building on April 16th by Maya Graf, president of the lower house of parliament (the national council).

“Efforts to promote respect for human rights in Switzerland, including those of the Tibetan community, form an integral part of the bilateral cooperation and political dialogue between Switzerland and China,” the DFA stated.

It added that Switzerland had clearly stated its position with regard to human rights in China during the two last sessions of the UN Human Rights Council in addition to making a “very clear appeal” to authorities in Beijing.

The Swiss-Tibet friendship society (AAST) inisisted that it was “incomprehensible” that the Dalai Lama would not be received by the Swiss government.

The association has launched a postcard campaign to seek greater support from the cabinet for the Tibetan cause.

During his visit, the Dalai Lama plans to travel to Lausanne and Fribourg, in addition to the Swiss capital.

In Fribourg, he will speak at a conference on Saturday and Sunday (already sold out) devoted to “ethics beyond religions”.

He is scheduled to meet with scientists from the University of Lausanne on Monday and is set to speak to students in Bern on Tuesday.

More information is available on the www.dalailama2013.ch website.

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