Plan for Dalai Lama to visit Hong Kong may fall prey to Beijing’s meddling

Philip Li shows a gift from the Dalai Lama

Philip Li shows a gift from the Dalai Lama. SCMP/Jonathan Wong

By Phila Siu | SCMP

ON THE WEB, 3 June 2013

A religious group has invited the Dalai Lama to Hong Kong in September and is confident that the trip will go ahead, despite the tensions between the Tibetan spiritual leader and the mainland’s government.

Philip Li Koi-hop, chairman of the Hong Kong Tibetan and Han-Chinese Friendship Association, said he has visited the Dalai Lama four times in India between 2009 and 2011.

“One time I asked him if he wanted to come to Hong Kong. He answered ‘Yes’, and said a University of Hong Kong professor had invited him earlier. But the Hong Kong government rejected the visit,” Li said yesterday.

Li sent his current invitation to the 77-year-old spiritual leader following his return from his latest visit.

The Dalai Lama’s office has not yet given him a reply, but Li said that was normal protocol.

Li hopes to use media pressure to urge the Dalai Lama to come to Hong Kong as well as to lean on the Immigration Department to allow the visit.

But political scientist Dr James Sung Lap-kung of City University said the invitation would prompt Beijing to meddle in Hong Kong’s affairs.

He said the central government had taken a “hardline approach” to the Dalai Lama for a long time and that the chances it would suddenly soften its stance to allow the visit were slim.

Li has applied to the Immigration Department to allow the Dalai Lama to visit the city, but it has not given an answer. It has said only that it processes all applications according to the law and current immigration policy.

It said it would consider all factors related to an application before making a final decision.

Li says that if the exiled leader is allowed to enter Hong Kong, his visit will represent significant progress in easing tensions with Beijing. He says he is confident that the Dalai Lama will be able to make the trip.

The association has also sent letters to authorities on the mainland, and to President Xi Jinping, about the proposed visit. It has yet to receive a reply.

The 14th Dalai Lama was named in 1950, a year after the founding of the People’s Republic of China. He has not returned to Tibet since a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

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