THE Dalai Lama today brushed aside a reported threat by China to withdraw their Olympic athletes from a Leeds training camp in response to a planned speech as “almost routine”.
The Tibetan spiritual leader made the comment during the launch of his 10-day visit to the UK which will see him pass on a message of non-violence, dialogue and universal responsibility.
Chinese officials asked Leeds City Council to pressure organisers into his cancelling his visit today to the Yorkshire Business Convention, which is supported by the Yorkshire Post.
The council distanced itself from the convention in Leeds but said it was aware of “sensitivities” around the event.
Chinese Olympic officials selected Leeds as the country’s training base last August.
Around 300 athletes, coaches and support staff representing China in at least 11 sports will be based there as they acclimatise to English conditions.
The Dalai Lama criticised the Chinese government’s “immoral” censorship policies when asked about civil rights and the internet at the Yorkshire International Business Convention.
Addressing hundreds of delegates in a packed marquee in Leeds city centre, he said: “1.3 billion Chinese people have every right to know the reality. Then, when they know the reality, they also have the ability to judge what is right and what is wrong and what is good and what is bad.
“So, therefore, censorship on people is immoral. In any other countries, ultimately, the ruler of the country is people, not the individual.”
Earlier, the Dalai Lama delivered a wide-ranging speech on business ethics, blaming the financial crisis on “short-sightedness”.
He said: “I asked some of my friends, some businessmen - what is the cause of this crisis?
“They said firstly greed and then speculation. Also, my friends say one factor in the process is ignorance and then perhaps I think short-sightedness - more immediate profit without paying more serious attention to side-effects or long-term prospects.”
He said multinational companies should be more transparent.
“These companies are multinational so ultimately their success depends on the larger community. Trust, respect is the key factor.
“In order to bring trust and respect transparency is very essential.”
The Dalai Lama was good-humoured throughout, drawing laughs from the crowd on numerous occasions.
He left the stage to a standing ovation after placing white sashes around the shoulders of TV presenter Clare Balding, who compered the event, and Leeds North East MP Fabian Hamilton, who chairs the All Party Parliamentary Group on Tibet.
His latest tour of Britain aims to spread the 76-year-old Buddhist’s teachings of peace and understanding to youngsters and he will appear with actor and comedian Russell Brand at a youth event in Manchester tomorrow.
Brand will act as a master of ceremonies at Manchester Arena when the Dalai Lama addresses thousands of young people, giving a talk entitled Century of Dialogue - Stand up and Be the Change.
During his stay he will also address young audiences at the University of Westminster, the London School of Economics and Political Science, Edinburgh Usher Hall, Caird Hall in Dundee and the Eden Court Theatre in Inverness.
He will also meet Tibetan, Nepalese and Mongolian Buddhist communities, religious leaders and parliamentarians at Westminster and Holyrood.
Today he said he was “very happy once more” to be in England as he spoke of the “close relations” with the country where he would spread the message of practising tolerance and forgiveness.
When asked about the economic crisis in the European Union he said: “It is very, very serious but then if you ask me what my advice is then I say I am not an expert.
“You have experience of the First World War and the Second World War by rebuilding.
“Looking at Germany they rebuilt their economy as did Japan, so why not.”
The Dalai Lama was born in a small village in north-eastern Tibet and at the age of two was recognised as the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso, and began his monastic education when he was six.
He was called upon to assume full political power over the people of Tibet at the age of 15 but was forced into exile in India after China invaded Tibet in 1949.
While in exile, he has worked to restore autonomy for Tibet within the People’s Republic of China and maintained a non-violent approach to his people’s struggle.