I asked on Monday why on earth Alex Salmond wouldn't meet the Dalai Lama. It now seems worse than I had anticipated as Dundee City Council have gone at best lukewarm over an event they were supposed to be full partners in. It appears that the Chinese Consul-General has sent the boys round, not only to Bute House, but to Edinburgh, Dundee and Highland Council too, to express their displeasure.
Amnesty Scotland's director, Shabnum Mustapha, has issued this statement today, expressing Amnesty's concern over the Scottish Government and Dundee Council's snubs to the Tibetan Spiritual Leader:
It is appalling and very worrying if Dundee City Council has ‘withdrawn’ its support for the Dalai Lama’s visit to its city due to pressure from the Chinese Government.
Amnesty has again and again highlighted China’s questionable human rights record, including its continued restriction on freedom of expression – and it seems that this censorship has now reached our shores. To think that our own publicly-elected officials would bow to pressure of this kind is unthinkable, and we would urge Dundee City Council to reconsider their decision.
It is also very disappointing that it appears no-one from the Scottish Government, including the First Minister, is able to welcome the Dalai Lama as he embarks on his visit to Scotland.
His visit to our country should serve as yet another opportunity for our government to put the spotlight on human rights abuses in China. Instead it seems that economics trump human rights when it comes to Scotland's growing relationship with the world's second largest economy.
The Scottish Government should be welcoming this opportunity to support the Dalai Lama, an important spiritual figure who symbolises the movement for non-violent self-determination for an oppressed people.
Throughout China, freedom of expression continues to be restricted by the authorities and re-education through labour camps continue to operate. And the Chinese government has displayed increasingly repressive behaviour in ethnic minority areas such as Tibet.