Video: Dalai Lama in Leeds defies China with plea for poor and free speech

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THE Dalai Lama delivered an uncompromising message on rising inequality and the immorality of censorship at an event in Yorkshire the Chinese authorities reputedly tried to block.

Speaking at the Yorkshire International Business Convention, the Nobel Peace Laureate urged business leaders to do more to help those in need.

The Dalai Lama is greeted by the Opera North children's choir on his arrival in Leeds.  Picture by Bruce Rollinson

The Dalai Lama is greeted by the Opera North children's choir on his arrival in Leeds. Picture by Bruce Rollinson

“You are quite fortunate people,” he told them. “You can do more about equality problem, protection of ecology and reduce gap between rich and poor.”

He added: “This gap is not just morally wrong, it is also a source of problems.”

His comments yesterday came as a new report revealed that average incomes have collapsed as the recession bites deeper.

The Institute of Fiscal Studies said average incomes before tax and benefits fell by more than 7 per cent between 2007-08 and 2010-11, with the biggest fall in the most recent year.

The think tank added the drop in wages could mean living standards will not return to the same levels as 2002 until 2015 and that there was “no realistic chance” the Government would meet the target enshrined in law of eradicating child poverty by 2020.

It follows official data on Thursday which showed the proportion of children classed as living in poverty in the UK fell by 2 per cent to 18 per cent in 2010/11, equating to 2.3 million children.

But the reduction missed by around 600,000, the former Labour Government’s target of halving child poverty from the 3.4 million level of a decade ago.

Work and Pensions Secretary Iain Duncan Smith revealed he planned to change the way child poverty was measured, by focusing on worklessness, debt and family breakdown, rather than income but the IFS report said the change, while sensible, would still not help meet the target.

The exiled Tibetan leader’s arrival in Leeds was greeted by schoolchildren and he met with Tibetans living in Yorkshire, blessing a man named Tashi Dhondop, who tearfully described it as “the best thing that has ever happened to me”.

In his address, the Dalai Lama spoke about the causes of the global financial crisis, listing greed, speculation, ignorance and short-sightedness, saying the success of society depends on community, trust and respect.

He told the audience: “The altruistic mind is the best way to fulfil your life. And you will feel happy.”

Speaking afterwards to the Yorkshire Post, he said people should not lose self confidence and hope as a result of the financial crisis.

“After the Second World War, Germany, the Soviet Union and Japan people never gave up and never lost their hope and self confidence. From ashes, they rebuilt their successful nations. The European Union has every potential to recover. These problems are temporary.”

He said people should focus less on material things, which cause discontent, and concentrate more on inner value, promoting honesty, truthfulness, compassion and forgiveness.

The Chinese government regards the 76-year-old as an anti-China separatist and condemned Prime Minister David Cameron’s meeting with him last month. Its embassy is said to have sent representatives to Leeds City Council to complain about his appearance and apparently threatened to pull its Olympic team out of the city’s training camp ahead of next month’s games. The council distanced itself from the event and did not send delegates.

The Dalai Lama suggested such threats has been “routine” for almost 2,000 years in Tibet.

On the issue of internet freedom, he said the Chinese people “have every right to look at reality” and judge what is right and what is wrong, describing censorship as immoral.