Chinese government, Weber State professor urge Utah leaders not to meet with Dalai Lama

Public domain photo courtesy of Voice of America, St. George News

SALT LAKE CITY — Following the cancellation of a previously scheduled Utah appearance in October due to health reasons, the Dalai Lama will be returning to the state to speak at the University of Utah Tuesday. However, some have expressed concern that the exiled leader of Tibet’s international Buddhist community will cause a rift between the U.S. and the Chinese government and have urged Utah leaders not to meet with him.

According to Fox 13 News, the Chinese government has warned leaders around the world against meeting with the Dalai Lama. At a news briefing Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Lu Kang said:

Under the cloak of religion, the 14th Dalai Lama peddles his political ambitions of dividing China all around the world. We ask all countries and government not to give him any room to carry out such campaigns, even less risking the firm opposition from the 1.3 billion Chinese people.

In addition, Fox 13 News obtained an email sent to Republican and Democratic legislative leaders from Weber State University professor Dr. Taowen Le. In addition to being a professor, Le is also U.S. representative for China’s Liaoning Province and a board member of the China Overseas Exchange Association. In the email, he stated it was unfortunate that the Dalai Lama had been invited to Utah.

“Given your particular leadership roles in the state, any meeting between you and him would be inevitably interpreted in ways that would jeopardize Utah’s relations with China,” he wrote.

“It takes years of efforts to build a good relation, but it takes only one critical wrong move to sour it.  As a long-time friend of the Utah State Legislature who has lived in Utah for 32 years, I sincerely and respectfully request that you carefully evaluate the circumstances and avoid meeting with Dalai Lama.”

While Le declined a request for an interview, he did say that he was speaking on his own behalf and not that of the Chinese government.

Responses from lawmakers have been mixed.

Gov. Gary Herbert’s office has reported that the governor still plans to greet the Dalai Lama, as he would any other religious leader who comes to the state. House Minority Leader Brian King, D-Salt Lake City, also said he will be meeting with the exiled leader.

“I think it’s important for us not to be intimidated by sort of bullying and threats along the line of, ‘If you meet with him you’ll hurt our feels, or we’ll be angry with you,'” King told Fox 13.

House Speaker Greg Hughes, R-Draper, expressed some trepidation but said that he believes Utah should be “good hosts.”

“We don’t want to get into any geopolitical war or dispute with anyone,” Hughes said. “But to the extent people come to our state, we like to be good hosts. You’ll see that in the House and Senate. I don’t think it’s a controversy.”

In February, the University of Utah and the Utah Tibet Foundation announced the Dalai Lama’s rescheduled presentation. The theme of Tuesday’s presentation will be compassion and universal responsibility. David Pershing, president of the University of Utah, expressed his gratitude that the leader was well enough to make a return visit.

“It is a great honor and pleasure to welcome the Dalai Lama back to the University of Utah,” Pershing said.

Read more about this story — including a joint statement by the House and Senate Majority offices — at Fox 13 News.

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Twitter: @STGnews

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.


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  • Proud Rebel June 15, 2016 at 4:57 pm

    I agree with the U of U president, it IS a great honor to have the Dalai Lama here in Utah. If China doesn’t like it, too bad. If a nut case professor who happens to be Chinese doesn’t like it, again too bad.
    I would certainly like to here what the Dalai Lama has to say, and the more they try to shut him up, the more I think we need to hear it. We may or may not agree with him, but let’s hear what he has to say!

  • Henry June 15, 2016 at 10:20 pm

    Uh, I think Utah will be okay. President Obama just met with the Dalai Lama today, the fourth meeting they’ve had since Obama took office. George W. Bush and Bill Clinton also met with the Dalai Lama during their presidencies.

    • Bob June 17, 2016 at 12:49 pm

      will Tommy Monson and the other LDS royalty be meeting with him?

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