Protest fears over Dalai Lama visit

Published: Friday 26th June 2015 by The News Editor

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Security fears have been raised over the Dalai Lama’s visit to the UK as hundreds of people are expected at protests against the exiled spiritual leader.

The 79-year-old Tibetan is set to appear at the Glastonbury festival on Sunday before travelling to Aldershot in Hampshire, where he will open a Buddhist community centre.

But his visit will be marked by protests by the International Shugden Community (ISC), who claim the Dalai Lama is engaged in the persecution of Shugden Buddhists in Tibetan exile.

MP Tim Loughton, of the all-party parliamentary group on Tibet, said the Dalai Lama had been “afforded no police protection” and raised concerns that the spiritual leader’s free speech was being “put at risk”.

During a parliamentary debate on Tibet, the Tory MP said: “During recent visits to other countries people have tried to disrupt his peaceful meetings and conferences, so there is the threat that many of his meetings may have to be abandoned.

“What message will be sent to the Chinese people if the British Government do not afford him the protection that is normally afforded a dignitary of his stature?”

More than 500 ISC protesters are expected to turn out when the Dalai Lama visits Aldershot Football Club on Monday during his four-day visit to the UK.

A protest will also be staged at London’s Kings Cross railway station on Saturday.

They claim media reports have shown religious intolerance and segregation practices, including signs above shops and medical facilities refusing service to people of the Shugden faith.

An alliance of 10 UK Buddhist Organisations have formally dissociated themselves from the protests, saying they are “very concerned about the protesters’ aggressive, misleading and unethical behaviour”.

An ISC spokeswoman said the Dalai Lama had escaped media scrutiny due to his “cult celebrity status”.

She said: “This ‘humble Buddhist monk’, as he likes to call himself, makes vast sums of money out of Buddha’s teachings, sports Gucci loafers and Rolex watches and stays in five-star hotels, whilst applying ruthless religious intolerance towards his own people who live in poverty, hardship and fear.”

Sonam Lama, a Tibetan ISC member, said: “The Dalai Lama is used to being a religious dictator and ruling without dissent or dialogue. People in the West think that the Dalai Lama stands for peace and tolerance, but we Tibetans know better. He has no tolerance or compassion for anyone who disagrees with him.”

The alliance of 10 UK Buddhist Organisations, including the Buddhist Society, said differences of opinion among followers of the religion “should be expressed in a peaceful, respectful, truthful and reasonable manner.”

They said: “We are very concerned about the protesters’ aggressive, misleading and unethical behaviour and the false image being presented to the public.

“The UK Buddhist Organisations signed up to this statement express their respect and support for His Holiness’ stance on promoting wider religious harmony between the religious traditions and on promoting mutual respect and admiration between the Buddhist traditions.”

They described the ISC as a “highly sectarian” group which had been staging aggressive protests during the Dalai Lama’s visits to America, Australia and Europe.

Its aim “is to destroy the religious and moral authority of His Holiness the Dalai Lama”, they said. “This also suits the Chinese Communist Party very well.”

Mr Loughton said he had written to Home Secretary Theresa May to request police protection for the Dalai Lama.

He said: ” Despite requests from his representatives, no security arrangements are in place.

“It’s extraordinary given his status and the fact that every other country, with the exception of Latvia, have provided security.”

Published: Friday 26th June 2015 by The News Editor

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