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Key Will Not Meet Dalai Lama On Upcoming Visit

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Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media
Dalai Lama
Dalai Lama

Wellington Nov 18 NZPA - Prime Minister John Key has decided not to meet Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, when he visits in December.

Mr Key said he had received an invitation to meet the Dalai Lama, but had decided against accepting.

"I may in the future, but I have met with him in the past and decided on this occasion there is no particular need to meet with him," Mr Key said.

China always objects to senior political leaders meeting the Dalai Lama, as he represents opposition to China's occupation of Tibet.

The issue had not been raised by the Chinese leadership at recent Apec (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) and Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) meetings , Mr Key said.

But he had told President Hu Jintao he would not be meeting the Dalai Lama on this occasion.

"We would understand the way the Chinese would deal with these things, but on the other side of the coin that wasn't the over-riding factor. There are a number of factors involved," Mr Key said.

Mr Key believed no ministers would meet the Dalai Lama, but a representative from the National Party might.

He said he did not believe it would be seen as kowtowing to the Chinese, as President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Kevin Rudd had also decided not to meet the Dalai Lama.

The Dalai Lama will visit New Zealand at the invitation of the Tibetan Buddhist community of New Zealand.

He is due to visit Auckland on December 5 and 6 to give a public speech.

President Hu today referred to China's "sovereignty over Taiwan and other matters", with some analysts predicting China will demand the United States accept China's sovereignty over the restive frontier regions of Tibet and Xinjiang.

Washington switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei, capital of self-ruled Taiwan, to Beijing in 1979 but remains the island's main arms supplier.

President Obama did not meet the Dalai Lama when the latter was in Washington in early October, but yesterday he urged China to resume talks with the Dalai Lama's representatives.

The Dalai Lama has said they may meet when the president returns from China.

The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India after an abortive uprising in 1959, nine years after Chinese troops marched into the Himalayan region.

The Green Party's foreign affairs spokesman, Keith Locke, said Mr Key's decision sent the wrong signal to the Chinese government.

"It is just giving China a signal that we're not serious about helping the Tibetan people in their hour of need," Mr Locke told NZPA.

"It contrasts greatly with John Key's position in opposition, when he did meet the Dalai Lama.

"Now he is in government and has some power and ability to influence the situation, he's backing off."

Mr Locke said it seemed Mr Key had even boasted to Chinese leaders that he would not be meeting the Dalai Lama.

"That just gives them a free hit against the Tibetan people."

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