Australian MPs to visit Dharamsala next week

DHARAMSALA - Australian parliamentarians are visiting this northern India hill station next week to meet exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, a Tibetan official said Friday.

“It will be the first such visit by a delegation of Australian MPs from July 1. The unofficial delegation comprises the Labor MPs Michael Danby and Melissa Parke, Liberal MP Peter Slipper, Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and Greens Senators Scott Ludlam and Sarah Hanson-Young,” Sonam N. Dagpo, secretary of international affairs of the government-in-exile, told IANS.

“Over the six-day visit, the group will have meetings with the Dalai Lama, representatives of the Tibetan parliament and the Tibetan cabinet, as well as newly arrived refugees and former political prisoners. On July 6, the group will take part in the public celebrations of the Dalai Lama’s 74th birthday,” he said.

The Sydney Morning Herald quoted Danby, who has long campaigned for the human rights of Tibetans and is heading the delegation, as saying: “A lot of us feel that the non-violent struggle of the Tibetan people to preserve their culture and identity and their very modest political aims for cultural autonomy within the Chinese state is something that we identify with for different reasons.”

“This is a significant step in Australia’s support for a peaceful resolution of the Tibetan situation. It is also a unique opportunity for Australian parliamentarians to learn first-hand about the challenges facing the Tibetan people and Tibetan culture,” he said.

However, the paper said it expected tensions between China and Australia would increase with the visit next month by federal parliamentarians to Dharamsala.

The Dalai Lama, who along with many of his supporters fled Tibet and took refuge in this hill station in 1959. His government-in-exile is headquartered here and is not recognized by any country in the world.

The Tibetan leader has spent the last two decades of his exile campaigning for “meaningful autonomy” for his homeland, but Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist.

Nearly six million Tibetans live in Tibet region of China while over 150,000 live in other countries, most of them in India and Nepal.

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