Guardian UK: Free Tibet Campaign urging public figures to stay away
Owen Bowcott - Monday January 28, 2008 -
Prince Charles won't be going to Beijing in August. Photograph: Stefan Rousseau/PA
Prince Charles has confirmed to the London-based Free Tibet Campaign that he has no plans to attend the opening ceremony in the Chinese capital. The Prince has not received a formal invitation but has recently been courted by the Chinese Ambassador in London in a bid to improve relations.
Prince Charles' public support for the Dalai Lama, Tibet's independent spiritual leader, and his disparaging remarks about Chinese officials at the handover of Hong Kong have been a public embarrassment for Beijing. In leaked diaries, written during in 1997, the Prince notoriously referred to senior Chinese officials as "appalling old waxworks".
The Free Tibet Campaign, which opposes the Chinese occupation of the Himalyan country, is not calling for athletes to stay away from the summer's Olympics. But it is hoping to encourage public figures to declare that they will stay away in protest at human rights abuses and China's refusal to grant Tibet independence.
"We are not calling for any sort of boycott by the athletes, they have been training for years," said Anne Holmes, director of the Free Tibet Campaign. "What we would like to see is as many as possible high profile public figures making a principled decision to stop at home - and watch it on TV. We would hope this would include Gordon Brown, who has been invited to go back to Beijing for the Olympics. We can't say what Prince Charles is thinking but Clarence House [the Prince's London residence] has written back to us to confirm that he is still very friendly towards Tibet."
The Prince has met the Dalai Lama several times. In a letter to the campaign, Clive Alderton, his deputy private secretary, confirmed the Prince would not attend the opening ceremony. "As you know, His Royal Highness has long taken a close interest in Tibet and indeed has been pleased to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama on several occasions," he wrote. "You asked if the Prince of Wales would be attending the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics in 2008. His Royal Highness will not be attending the ceremony."
Publication of the letter is likely to be regretted by the government, which has attempted to build strong economic and cultural ties with the China. A spokeswoman for Clarence House told The Guardian yesterday: "There are no current plans for [the Prince] to go to the Olympics. As a rule he doesn't attend. He went when the Princess Royal was competing in Montreal in 1976. The Prince of Wales ... takes an interest in the siuation in Tibet and he hopes as long term peaceful solution will be reached after some dialogue."
Both Princess Anne, who is president of the British Olympic Association, and Prince Edward are likely to go to Beijing.
Last month Tibetan exiles failed to convince the International Olympic Committee that they should allow their athletes to compete as an independent national team under the title 'Team Tibet'. The country has been occupied by Chinese troops since 1950.