Dalai Lama 'keeps low profile'

Tibetan spiritual leader is to spend most of the Beijing Olympics in France.

    The Dalai Lama is to inaugurate a temple
    in the south of France [AFP]

    On Tuesday, he offered prayers at the Buddhist institute, run by an exiled Tibetan, and greeted the local mayor and representatives of other religions.

    He was also set to visit another suburb, Evry, to bless a statue of Buddha in a vast pagoda being built by worshippers of Vietnamese heritage.

    The only political event in the Dalai Lama's trip will be closed-door talks with French legislators, scheduled for Wednesday.

    Chinese pressure

    Nicolas Sarkozy, the French president, has decided not to meet with the Tibetan spiritual leader while the Olympics are in progress.

    A spokesperson from Sarkozy's office said the Dalai Lama did not seek a visit with him during his stay.

    Sarkozy's critics and human rights groups have accused the president of giving in to Chinese pressure in order to try to secure Chinese contracts for French companies, particularly since Sarkozy decided to attend the Olympics opener in Beijing after threatening not to go.

    Luc Chatel, a French government spokesman, told France-2 television on Tuesday that the Dalai Lama "said himself he thinks that it isn't necessarily the right moment, given the Olympic Games, for a meeting with the president".

    He also said that the Dalai Lama and Sarkozy had "jointly decided" to meet later this year.

    'Self-censorship'

    But some French officials  believe the government is being too cautious about angering China.

    Lionnel Luca, a legislator in Sarkozy's own Union for a Popular Movement party, told France Inter radio that the government engaged in "self-censorship'' by deciding to keep the Senate meeting behind closed doors.

    He said: "Our country must surely be occupied by Chinese troops because we are so afraid of displeasing [China]."

    Many pro-Tibetan and free speech activists protested in France as the Olympic flame passed through Paris in April on its world tour, angry about China's crackdown on demonstrations in Tibet that erupted in March.

    Some Chinese called for boycotts of French products afterward.

    During his stay, the Dalai Lama will hold a five-day teaching conference in Nantes, in western France.

    Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, the French first lady, will accompany him to the inauguration of a temple in southern France before his trip ends on August 23, a day before the Olympic Games close.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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