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Chinese block Tibetans at Buddhist event in Yeosu

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Published : 2012-06-13 20:37
Updated : 2012-06-13 20:37

A Chinese delegation abruptly left a religious conference in Yeosu on Wednesday morning after Tibetans attending the event refused to acquiesce to demands they leave.

The Chinese delegation, consisting of Buddhist officials and monks, had walked out of the opening ceremony of the World Fellowship of Buddhists in Korea the previous evening. The Chinese had complained about the Tibetans’ participation, claiming that they represent Tibet’s government-in-exile. Saying they did not want to share the same venue, the Chinese delegation asked that the Tibetans leave. When the Tibetans refused, the Chinese left Yeosu.

The Chinese delegation left for Busan on Wednesday morning in a vehicle provided by the Chinese Embassy, the organizing committee said.

Two Tibetans, including a senior envoy of Tibet’s exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, are in Korea to attend the biannual event currently being held in the coastal city. The two are Samdhong Rinpoche, a former prime minister of Tibet’s government-in-exile, and Pema Chhinjor, minister of religion and culture.
A religious performance is staged during the opening ceremony of WFB conference in Yeosu on Monday evening. (Jogye Order)

“Nothing so special, Chinese are always like that. We are here at the invitation of the organizers and were attending the ceremony because I (as the member of the organization) was allowed to,” Chhinjor told The Korea Herald in a telephone interview.

“Organizers came to me asking to go outside for some time as Chinese kept complaining (about my presence) ... But I said I am here on invitation and this is Korea, not Beijing,” he added.

Organizers said they sought China’s understanding on the issue as it is a religious event, not a political one.

“This was not the first time that delegates from China and Tibet have met at a conference. They met at a previous conference held in Sri Lanka two years ago, but it ended smoothly,” said a spokesman for the WFB conference in Korea.

Rinpoche and Chhinjor are the highest-ranking Tibetan officials to visit South Korea so far. Their visit is regarded as a low-profile trip as they were to meet Buddhist delegates from other nations to exchange views on religious matters, organizers had said in a previous interview.

About 1,000 delegates from 33 countries are taking part in the event being held on the sidelines of the Expo 2012 Yeosu. The conference ends Friday.

China considers the Dalai Lama a separatist despite his calls for autonomy rather than independence for Tibet. China has pressured world leaders not to meet with him.

By Cho Chung-un (christory@heraldcorp.com)

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