'Hot' visit in Ulaanbaatar: Why China is again upset?
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Issue Courtesy: | Date : 21 Nov , 2016

Simply because the Dalai Lama, the Tibetan religious leader, has been invited for a four-day visit to Mongolia.

According to China Radio International (CRI), Beijing has strongly urged Mongolia “to stick to its commitment to Tibet-related issues for maintaining the sound development of bilateral ties.”

Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang too sees red: “the Dalai Lama is a political refugee who has long been engaged in activities to split China and alienate Tibet from China in the name of religion.”

Geng added:

China resolutely opposes the Dalai Lama visiting any country to carry out anti-China separatist activities in any name or in any capacity. We also stand firmly against all forms of contacts between officials from any country and the Dalai Lama. We strongly demand that Mongolia, for the purpose of maintaining the general picture of a sound and steady development of bilateral ties, earnestly stick to its commitment on Tibet-related issues, do not allow the visit by the Dalai Lama and do not provide any form of support and convenience to the group of the Dalai Lama.

It usually works: it is enough to persuade leaders of Buddhist countries to desist inviting Tibet’s popular religious leader.

No visit takes place.

Not this time.

Associated Press quoted Davaapurev, a monk from the Gandan monastery in Ulaanbaatar, saying that Dalai Lama was on a four-day visit “with purely religious purposes.”

According to Davaapurev, one of the organizers of the visit, the Tibetan monk is to receive an honorary degree, take part in different religious functions and meet with academics and representatives of the nation’s youth: “the visit is separate from politics and for religious purposes only,” the organizer explained.

The Chinese do not believe this.

For Radio Free Asia (RFA), in the past Beijing “used the Mongolian economy’s heavy dependence on trade with China as leverage, cutting off rail links and disrupting air travel during a visit by the Dalai Lama in 2006.”

The Dalai Lama has visited Mongolia several times; his first journey to Ulaanbaatar was in 1979.

But the Chinese lobby in Mongolia has been active. It used the abbot of the rival Ikh Khuree monastery, Sanjdorj Zandan, to point out at the visit was an interference in Mongolia’s internal affairs.

Zandan said that the Dalai Lama planned to name the new head of Mongolian Buddhism (Davaapurev denied that such appointment would take place).

RFA reported that when the Dalai Lama arrived in Mongolia on November 18, he was welcomed at the airport by government representatives, senior monks of Mongolian monasteries …and the Indian ambassador.

For India, the Dalai Lama is not only a respected guest of the country but a venerated religious teacher.

Today (November 19), he will bless the Gaden Thekchen Choeling, Mongolia’s largest monastery and speak to the abbots and other Mongolian senior religious teachers.

He will then visit the monastery of the Kalkha Jetsun Dampa, the ninth head of Mongolia’s Buddhists (the Mongolian ‘Dalai Lama’).
In countries where religious and politics are so closely intermingled, it is bound to infuriate China’s further.

Mongolia’s courage

Mongolian leaders have been quite courageous to dare facing Beijing’s ire. The country’s President, Prime Minister, and Speaker of Parliament admitted that they supported Gaden monastery’s invitation, though no meetings with government officials would take place.

RFA says: “Beijing often berates foreign leaders who host the Buddhist leader, last month telling Slovakian President Andrej Kiska that his lunch meeting with the Dalai Lama had “broken the political basis of China-Slovak relations.”

It is interesting to see that the Indian Ambassador had the clearance from South Block to go at the airport.

While China promotes religious tourism on the Tibetan plateau in a big way, it is surprising that Beijing is more and more inflexible on the Dalai Lama issue, though the Tibetan leader is probably the only person who could help the Communist Party to sort out the Tibetan issue.

Let us hope that the example of Mongolia will be an example for other Asian Buddhist countries such Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Thailand or Burma.

Bullies should not dictate their rule forever.

Post scriptum 

On November 20, two days after the arrival of the Dalai Lama in Ulaanbaatar, China urged Mongolia “to eliminate the negative impacts of the Dalai Lama’s visit and refrain from disturbing the healthy development of China-Mongolia ties.”

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang admitted that “regardless of China’s repeated dissuasions, the Mongolian side insisted inviting the Dalai Lama for visit.”

Geng added: “China is firmly opposed to the anti-China secessionist activities by the Dalai Lama in any capacity and under any name, as well as any contacts between the Dalai Lama and the authorities of any countries.”

Though the Dalai Lama is already preaching (under the snow) in Mongolia, Beijing continues to ask Ulaanbaatar “to recognize the separatist nature of the Dalai Lama clique, show respect to China’s core interests and major concern, and take effective measures to remove the negative impacts of the Dalai Lama’s visit, so as to avoid disturbing the sound development of China-Mongolia relations.”

It is doubtful if Mongolia will be convinced now.


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The views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily represent the opinions or policies of the Indian Defence Review.

About the Author

Claude Arpi

Writes regularly on Tibet, China, India and Indo-French relations. He is the author of 1962 and the McMahon Line Saga, Tibet: The Lost Frontier and Dharamshala and Beijing: the negotiations that never were.

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