07 October 2009

Chinese association lobbied for Dalai Lama to be denied New Zealand visa

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The Dalai Lama, the 73-year-old Tibetan spiritual leader, is scheduled to speak at the Vector Area in Auckland on December 6, although it is not yet known if the New Zealand Prime Minister John Key will accept the invitation to watch him speak.

China regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist and is opposed to world leaders meeting him, and the United Chinese Association of New Zealand wrote to Mr Key in April asking the Government not to grant him a New Zealand visa.

Organisers of the Buddhist leader's New Zealand visit said they hope the decision to wait until the last minute to accept the invitation is because of a busy schedule, and not because of the fear of injuring relations with China.

Thuten Kesang, chairman of the Dalai Lama Visit Trust, said he will be keeping a close eye on the visit of exiled Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer next week, to see what sort of reception and reaction she receives in Auckland.

Kadeer is waiting to be issued a New Zealand visa for her visit, and an application in August for an Australian visa was strongly opposed by the Chinese Government. The Australian Government did not bow to pressure and issued the Australian visa to Kadeer for her to speak at several functions in the country.

The decision to issue Kadeer a New Zealand visa rests with Immigration Minister Jonathan Coleman.

"By and large, the Uighurs and us Tibetans are in the same pot of soup," Mr Kesang told the New Zealand Herald.

"The people are still suffering under the oppressive communist regime."

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