Speech on the Dalai Lama’s Visit to NZ

KEITH LOCKE MP (Green Party):

Yesterday Parliament had the pleasure of welcoming the Dalai Lama to this house, and we greeted him in the gallery here. It is quite an occasion to welcome a leader of such standing who has been in exile from his own country for the last 40 years. Over that time his people, the Tibetan people, have undergone huge suffering and many have been killed.

Those of us who met him–and the Parliamentary Lobby Group for Tibet had a meeting with him–were impressed with his humility and his humanitarianism. He is an outstanding advocate and practitioner of non-violent solutions to world problems, including the problems of his own country, and for that he is a Nobel Peace Prize winner. I pay tribute today to the other members of the parliamentary lobby group for Tibet, Nick Smith and Tim Barnett. It is a good cross-party lobby group.

One of the questions I asked the Dalai Lama yesterday was what we, as a lobby group and as a Parliament, could do to advance the cause of a dialogue between the Dalai Lama and the Chinese Government, with a view to resolving the problems between them. The Dalai Lama is only advocating self-determination for Tibet within the framework of China, so that the Tibetan people have full rights to determine their own destiny.

In answering the question, one thing he said was that it was to the benefit of the Chinese to solve the question in this way, and that it would enable the Tibetan people and the Chinese people to live together side by side in peace and harmony, as good neighbors within the framework of China. But unfortunately the Chinese Government is resisting any change and is resisting a dialogue with the Dalai Lama because China has a one-party State that is against any real challenge to its rule. We see that also in the way China has treated the Falun Gong meditation group, throwing many people from that group in jail. Many people from that group have lost their lives. It is wrong for the New Zealand Government to bend in any way to the dictates of the Chinese Government on this question. It was very good, for a start, that our Government people, including Phil Goff, met the Dalai Lama. That is a big step forward, as against Australia, where the Government people refused to meet him. But Phil Goff said he met the Dalai Lama only as a spiritual leader. I do not think we should concede to China in that way.

When, for instance, Helen Clark met leaders of the West Papuan movement at the Pacific Islands Forum meeting and was photographed with them, of course the Indonesian Government did not like that too much, but Helen Clark did not say she was meeting those people as spiritual leaders of the West Papuan people. The lobby group met the Dalai Lama as both a spiritual leader of his people and a political leader, in the sense that he is part of the political processes of his people to gain self-determination for Tibet.

What happened in Auckland this week was also very stupid. A banner advertising the Dalai Lama’s meeting there tomorrow was strung across the road, and it referred to the fact that the Dalai Lama was in exile. Because it said the Dalai Lama was in exile, Auckland City Council officials ordered that banner to be pulled down, and the mayor, John Banks, supported them.

This morning’s Herald quotes an Auckland City Council spokesperson saying that the banner was pulled down “to follow Foreign Affairs guidelines, which recommend a non-inflammatory line on matters re Tibet/China.” I have not heard of any such Foreign Affairs guidelines and I would like the Government to assure us that there are no such guidelines. If there are, this is undermining our democracy. It is importing the Chinese version of democracy to New Zealand.

In 1999 we had the incidents during the visit of the Chinese premier at the time of the APEC conference and after, with unseemly scenes of the police pushing back demonstrators and using buses to block demonstrators from the view of the Chinese premier.


Delivered in Parliament