British Prime Minister John Major came under fierce criticism Saturday over his decision not to meet the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader. British Foreign Secretary Douglas Hurd, who is planning a visit to China and Hong Kong later this year, has also come under fire for refusing to meet the Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who arrived in Britain yesterday.
``The foreign secretary himself should agree to meet the Dalai Lama in view of his proposed visit to China," Lord David Hedley Ennals, president of the all-party parliamentary group for Tibet, said Saturday.
A group of parliamentarians from all parties asked Mr. Major in a letter to reconsider his decision, but a Downing Street spokesman said there was no change in the prime minister's position.
"Britain's smokescreening does nobody credit. This is a pointless appeasement of China's vociferous protests against the Dalai Lama's visit," the Times (London) said in an article. "It is pointless, because the Chinese will be furious anyway."
Chinese troops, who entered Tibet in 1950, toppled the Buddhist theocracy in power. Following an uprising nine years later, the Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and temporal leader, fled to India with thousands of followers.
Beijing protested to London about a proposed meeting between the Dalai Lama and Lord James Peter Hymers Mackay, who is the Lord Chancellor, Britain's most senior law officer.
The Dalai Lama will also meet Prince Charles, heir to the British throne, and Neil Kinnock, leader of the opposition Labour Party.