MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s financial powerhouse Milan has dropped plans to give honorary citizenship to the Dalai Lama due to concerns the decision could anger China, expected to feature prominently at the Universal Exposition due to be held in Milan in 2015.
Milan had intended to honor the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader, who is considered a separatist by Beijing, before his arrival next week for a two-day visit. But the city council suspended the decision on Thursday.
“The Chinese consul told me that making the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen would have been interpreted as a sign of non-friendship towards the Chinese people,” Milan mayor Giuliano Pisapia was quoted as saying by Italy’s leading newspaper Corriere della Sera on Friday.
Contacted by Reuters, Pisapia’s spokesman confirmed the remark.
“There is no citizenship but a request which the Dalai Lama has accepted that he solemnly talks before the city council on Tuesday morning,” the spokesman said.
Italian media reported that Milan pulled back from the plan after Chinese pressure raised concerns among local politicians that China could reconsider its investments at the Expo.
Other Italian cities including Rome and Venice have already made the Dalai Lama an honorary citizen.
A representative from the Tibetan community in Italy called the decision ‘disgraceful’.
Reporting by Danilo Masoni; Editing by Jon Hemming