DHARAMSHALA, June 14: China has threatened to pull its Olympic athletes out of their training camp in Leeds, UK due to a scheduled visit by the Tibetan spiritual leader His Holiness the Dalai Lama to the city.
BBC has reported that Chinese officials asked Leeds City Council to put pressure on the organisers to cancel the Dalai Lama’s Friday visit to attend the Yorkshire International Business Convention as its keynote speaker.
Fabian Hamilton, Labour MP for Leeds North East and chairman of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Tibet, described the reported demand as “reprehensible and disgraceful” and accused China of employing "bully-boy tactics."
He criticised the Chinese government’s "appalling human rights record" and their telling UK’s "elected representatives" not to have the Dalai Lama in Leeds.
"I find it distasteful, to say the least, that two representatives of a country whose human rights record is appalling, where freedom of speech is not allowed and where there is no real democracy, come to the city of Leeds and tell our elected officials … that they can't do what they think is best for the city under pain of economic sanction," Hamilton told BBC.
Leeds is due to host China's pre-Olympic Games training centre from early July. About 300 Chinese athletes, coaches and support staff will be based in the West Yorkshire city preparing for the Games.
Last month, China reportedly suspended minister-level meetings with the UK in protest against Prime Minister David Cameron's “private” meeting with the Dalai Lama in London, during the Nobel peace laureate’s visit to collect the 2012 Templeton Prize.
Chinese ministers either cancelled or downgraded planned meetings with Lord Green, the Trade and Investment minister and Jeremy Browne, the Foreign Office minister, British diplomatic sources have been quoted as saying.
In addition, Wu Bangguo, China's chief legislator had also called off a planned trip to Britain in May.
The Dalai Lama is scheduled to tour the UK for over a week, giving public lectures and teachings in multiple cities.