BEIJING/OSLO (Reuters) - China warned again on Wednesday that it was resolutely opposed to a visit by the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama to Norway, saying if he really was a religious figure he should be “resting in a temple” not travelling the world.
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to visit Norway from May 7 to May 9 at the invitation of civil groups in Oslo, in part to celebrate the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize.
The Norwegian prime minister and the foreign minister have not accepted invitations to meet him. However, the Dalai Lama is scheduled to be in parliament and meet some MPs, including members of a “Tibet Committee”.
China’s foreign ministry, which in December condemned the visit, said it was opposed to any country giving a platform to the Dalai Lama’s views.
“Our position on the Dalai Lama is very clear, very resolute and consistent,” ministry spokesman Qin Gang told a daily news briefing.
“If the Dalai Lama is, as he says, a simple religious person, he ought to be properly resting in the temple, and not travelling here and there, getting involved internationally in splitting China and damaging ethnic unity,” he said.
“We resolutely oppose any foreign country providing a platform or convenience for the Dalai Lama’s splittist words and acts and oppose him meeting any foreign leader.”
China calls the Dalai Lama a “wolf in sheep’s clothing” who seeks to use violent methods to establish an independent Tibet.
The Dalai Lama, who fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959, maintains he only wants genuine autonomy for Tibet and denies advocating violence.
Norway’s diplomatic relations with China have been frozen since 2010 when the Nobel Committee awarded the peace prize to Liu Xiaobo, a veteran of 1989 pro-democracy protests in Beijing which the government crushed.
China canceled meetings with Norwegian officials and denied visas to visiting dignitaries, even though Norway’s government says it has no influence over the Nobel Committee.
The Dalai Lama will also meet Thorbjoern Jagland, the head of the Norwegian Nobel Committee and also the head of the Council of Europe. He will hold several public lectures.
“Norway-China relations are very poor, nearly non-existent. There have been no contact since 2010,” Norwegian Foreign Minister Boerge Brende told parliament on Wednesday.
“We must be prepared that if Norwegian authorities welcomed the Dalai Lama, it would be more difficult to normalize relations with China. We have to be honest about that.”
The speaker of Norway’s parliament is refusing to meet the Dalai Lama, saying it is not in the best interests of Norway, prompting the opposition to call him a coward.
“I reject claims that this is cowardly or pathetic. I believe it’s a question of being responsible and bringing us off a difficult track,” the president of Norway’s parliament, Olemic Thommessen, told public broadcaster NRK.
“If we are going to be a nation working for international human rights and peacekeeping, then we can’t be the country with the worst relations of all to this great power,” Thommessen said.
A poll by daily VG showed that 6 out of 10 Norwegians think the prime minister and the foreign minister should meet the Dalai Lama and 5 out of 10 think it is cowardly not to meet him. Only 14 percent think they should not meet him.
While diplomatic ties have floundered, trade is flourishing. In the first three months of the year, Norwegian exports to China rose 30 percent and imports went up six percent.
Reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING, and Terje Solsvik and Balazs Koranyi in OSLO; Editing by Robert Birsel