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Archbishop Speaks Out On Tibet

Archbishop Dr John Sentamu in the House of Lords

Wednesday 27th February 2013

The Archbishop of York Dr John Sentamu yesterday asked the Government to press China to recognise the Dalai Lama as a religious leader, not just a political leader.

Speaking in the House of Lords, Dr Sentamu asked Baroness Warsi to make representations to the Chinese Government.

The question followed a question by Lord Steel to the Minister about the Dalai Lama. The full exchange is below....


Lord Steel of Aikwood: Does the Minister, having read the report to which she has kindly referred, recognise that in the three years since, two important things have happened? One is that there was a change of leadership in China; the second is that the Dalai Lama has given up his political role as head of the Tibetan Government in exile. Therefore, would she and her colleagues try to encourage the Chinese authorities to enter into dialogue with the Dalai Lama as a religious leader in order to stop these immolations and try to improve relations between the Tibetan people and the Chinese?

Baroness Warsi: Many of us around the world recognise the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader, but my noble friend will be aware of the position of the Chinese Government. That is not the way he is seen within the People’s Republic of China. The noble Lord will also be aware of the UK-China annual human rights dialogue, and we continue to raise these concerns at that point.


The Archbishop of York: My Lords, I thank the Minister for her answer to the question asked by the noble Lord, Lord Steel. I still want to probe a bit further. He is certainly exiled, but the Dalai Lama is not only a spiritual and religious leader of the people of Tibet; he is also recognised throughout the world. Will the Government nevertheless impress upon the Chinese Government that they should recognise and respect the Dalai Lama as a religious leader and not as a political leader? If they did that, it is possible that they would then have a dialogue.

Baroness Warsi: The most reverend Prelate raises an important wider issue: the freedom of religion within China and the recognition of religious groups and therefore of religious leaders. It is a matter that we raise in generic terms, although I cannot categorically say whether the specific issue of recognising the Dalai Lama as a spiritual leader has been raised.

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