DUNDEE council has been accused of bowing to pressure from the Chinese government and pulling out of an event for the Dalai Lama organised by the University of Dundee.
• Dundee councillors were lobbied by Chinese consul general over Dalai Lama visit
• City council officials maintain event will take place as planned
Lord Provost Bob Duncan has said he is unable to attend an event for the exiled Tibetan leader to be held tomorrow at the Caird Hall because of a family bereavement.
However, it has been claimed that the SNP-led council has pulled back from the Dalai Lama’s visit after pressure from the Chinese government over trade links. It has emerged that Chinese consul general Li Ruiyou visited civic leaders in Dundee, Inverness and Edinburgh to lobby them over the visit.
In a statement, Dundee City Council denied there had been any change because of political pressure: “Contrary to reports, the council would like to make it clear that it has not withdrawn any invitation to the Dalai Lama to speak in the city.
“The event, which is part of the University of Dundee’s graduation week, is going ahead as planned.”
Yesterday Amnesty International said: “It is appalling and very worrying if Dundee City Council has ‘withdrawn’ its support for the Dalai Lama’s visit to its city due to pressure from the Chinese government.
“Amnesty has again and again highlighted China’s questionable human rights record, including its continued restriction on freedom of expression and it seems that this censorship has now reached our shores.
“His visit to our country should serve as yet another opportunity to put the spotlight on human rights abuses in China. Instead, it seems that economics trump human rights when it comes to Scotland’s growing relationship with the world’s second-largest economy.”
The Chinese regard Tibet as a historic part of China and refuse to acknowledge the Dalai Lama as head of the government in exile, labelling him a “splittist”.
Scottish Labour’s shadow cabinet secretary for external affairs, Patricia Ferguson, said: “This is a very sad development. I can’t think of a similar situation ever having occurred in Scotland. Scotland is a welcoming, open and tolerant country and to withdraw support for a visit from an important religious figure like this is very confusing.
Lib Dem leader Willie Rennie said: “People from across Scotland have waited six years to meet with His Holiness. The cities of Dundee, Edinburgh and Inverness have all noted their enthusiasm towards welcoming him. Yesterday a spokesman for the First Minister said: “Whatever Dundee City Council does is entirely a matter for the council, – there has certainly been no contact between the government and the council.”