Dalai Lama begins Dutch visit

4th June 2009, Comments 0 comments

The Tibetan spiritual leader brushes off Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's decision not to receive him and describes his three-day visit as non-political.

Amsterdam – Amid Chinese outrage, Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, arrived in the Netherlands Wednesday for a three-day visit he described as "non-political".

"My visit is non-political. I am here simply to share with the public about two things: human values and religious harmony," he told reporters upon his arrival at Amsterdam's Schiphol airport.

The 73-year-old exiled Buddhist spiritual leader, due to meet Dutch Foreign Minister Maxime Verhagen on Friday, said he was unfazed by Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende's decision not to receive him.

"No problem, I have no political agenda," he shrugged.

Asked whether he thought Balkenende had been influenced by Chinese pressure, he responded: "Ask him", and burst out laughing.

China on Tuesday warned that countries receiving the Dalai Lama on his European tour will "severely damage" relations with Beijing.

"Any irresponsible moves by any country over this issue will constitute gross intervention in the internal affairs of China and will severely damage relations with those countries," foreign ministry spokesman Qin Gang said in Beijing.

Chinese ambassador Zhang Jun had also written a letter to the Dutch parliament to protest against lawmakers' plans to meet the Dalai Lama. That meeting is going ahead on Friday morning.

The 14th Dalai Lama, winner of the 1989 Nobel peace prize, kicked off a European tour in Denmark last Friday which also includes Iceland, Poland and France.

Beijing accuses him of seeking independence for Tibet from Chinese rule and considers any official meeting with the leader as meddling in China's internal affairs.

The Dalai Lama denies the accusation and says he wants only meaningful autonomy for his homeland.

In the Netherlands, he would meet Verhagen not at the foreign ministry, but as part of an "inter-faith dialogue" in The Hague between the minister and leaders of religious communities.

The Dalai Lama would give a public lecture in Amsterdam on Thursday and open a concert entitled "Night of Tibet" on Friday evening.

He has been living in exile in India since 1959.

This is the Dalai Lama's fifth visit since 1986 to the Netherlands, which he described Wednesday as a "very, very low country" compared to Tibet -- also known as the Roof of the World.

AFP / Expatica

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