London (AsiaNews/Agencies) - The official visit of the Dalai Lama to London is beginning amid controversies. English prime minister Gordon Brown has, in fact, refused to meet the Buddhist leader at his official residence, and this decision has outraged the numerous pro-Tibet groups based in England. Nonetheless, Brown will meet with the Dalai Lama at the end of the week, at Albert Hall.
The decision, say sources close to the government, arose from the desire "not to offend" the Chinese government. After the protests last March in Lhasa, in fact, Beijing has tightened its foreign policy even more, and has made it known that it will consider as a grave offence any strengthening of ties between Western governments and the Dalai Lama.
The visit of the Buddhist leader is part of a wider world tour, lasting three months, and organised by the Tibetan government-in-exile. After the visit to Germany and England, the Nobel peace prize winner will visit Australia, the United States, and France. During the first meetings in Germany, the Dalai Lama prayed for the victims of the disastrous earthquake that struck Sichuan nine days ago, and recalled that he is not seeking the independence of Tibet, but only true autonomy for the region.
According to the schedule, during his 10-day stay in London, the spiritual leader will meet with the archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Williams, give a lecture at the University of Nottingham, and receive an honourary doctorate from the London Metropolitan University. On this last occasion, pro-Tibet groups are expected to meet to demonstrate against the English government: the police have stated that the area will be "adequately monitored".