The Dalai Lama said a decision by Norway’s political leaders not to meet with him in Oslo during a visit this week wasn’t a disappointment, as he marked the 25th anniversary of receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.
“I want to meet with the public,” the Tibetan spiritual leader said today at a press conference in Norway’s capital. If leaders like President Barack Obama “are willing to meet me, I’m happy. Otherwise I don’t want to create any inconvenience, that’s not my purpose. There’s no reason for disappointment. My main interest or commitment is promotion of human values.”
Norway’s government opted not to meet with the Dalai Lama out of concern it would anger China. Western Europe’s biggest oil exporter has sought to ease tensions with the world’s second-largest economy since Norway’s Nobel committee awarded jailed Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo the Peace Prize in 2010.
The same year, China broke off high-level contacts with Norway. The dispute has also strained trade relations between the two countries, disrupting salmon exports from Norway.
Foreign Minister Boerge Brende said last month Norway needs “to focus on our relationship with China” and that if the government met with the Dalai Lama, it would become “difficult to normalize our relationship with China.”
China accuses the Nobel Laureate of waging a campaign for independence, while the Dalai Lama says he is seeking autonomy for Tibet. He fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese occupation. Hundreds of thousands of Tibetans have died since then as a result of China’s policies, according to the International Campaign for Tibet.
“It seems that the more accusations from the Chinese government, the more popularity for me,” the Dalai Lama said today. “When I visit different places, if the Chinese government remained silent, then the press may not pay much attention. When the Chinese protest, you pay more attention.”
Zhao Jun, China’s ambassador, said last year in a speech in Stavanger, Norway, that the Nordic country needs to make the first move and pledge not to cross “red policy lines” to solve the diplomatic freeze.
Brende, part of the new Conservative-led government that took power last year, has said that improving relations with China, its sixth-biggest trading partner, will be his top priority.
The government has maintained that it has no power over the Nobel Committee’s decisions in awarding the Peace Prize. The prize is handed out by a committee appointed by parliament and headed by former Prime Minister Thorbjoern Jagland.
The religious leader earlier this year met with Obama even as the Chinese government lodged a formal diplomatic protest, saying the meeting would undermine U.S.-China relations.
“Norway, a smaller country, you can do more,” the Dalai Lama said. “Norway, a smaller company, can make a significant contribution. This is my view.”