Japan Institute for National Fundamentals

Speaking out

Hironobu Ishikawa

【#222】Japanese Politicians Hesitant to Receive Dalai Lama

Hironobu Ishikawa / 2013.11.27 (Wed)

November 25, 2013

       Japanese politicians have shown hesitance to eagerly welcome Tibetan Buddhist leader the Dalai Lama who has been proactively delivering lectures in Tokyo, Chiba, Shizuoka and Kyoto prefectures since his arrival in Japan on November 15. Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has kept from meeting with the Tibetan leader.

Fewer lawmakers attended Tibetan lecture
       In a special lecture for National Diet members at the House of Councillors Hall on November 20, the Dalai Lama discussed water resources and other environmental problems and Tibetan monks' continuing self-immolations in China, among others. Organizing the lecture was a suprapartisan association of volunteer lawmakers led by Takeo Hiranuma, who leads National Diet members from the Japan Restoration Party. Participants numbered 141 (comprising 64 lawmakers and representatives of 77 other lawmakers) from eight parties, including 103 from the ruling Liberal Democratic Party. The number is almost half of 232 participants (including 134 lawmakers) for the previous Dalai Lama lecture that took place at the same hall on November 13 last year.
       Why was the lecture organized by the volunteer lawmakers instead of a parliamentary league created last year for supporting Tibet? At the lecture last year, the lawmakers adopted an appeal urging the Chinese government to improve Tibetan and Uyghur human rights situation. At this year's lecture, however, they refrained from taking a similar action. Disrespectfully, many lawmakers left the lecture room while the Dalai Lama was still delivering the speech.
At last year's Dalai Lama lecture, LDP President Abe before returning to the premiership last December said in a welcoming speech, "We would like to firmly join hands with Tibetans as Japan's political attitude toward Tibet has changed dramatically." Last year’s meeting thus should have demonstrated Japan's commitment to fight for freedom and human rights in Tibet.

Big difference between Japanese and Western leaders
       Have Japanese politicians refrained from contacting the Dalai Lama in consideration of a Japanese business delegation visiting China for possible talks with top Chinese leaders? Are there any beliefs or values on which a political party must get a lid when shifting to a ruling party from an opposition group?
       In Western countries, incumbent political leaders have held meetings with the Dalai Lama. U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush met with the Dalai Lama. British Prime Ministers David Cameron, Gordon Brown and Tony Blair as well as the Prince of Wales held talks with the Dalai Lama. Among other European leaders, French President Nicholas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel talked with the Dalai Lama. U.S. President Obama used a private room instead of the Oval Office at the White House for meeting with the Dalai Lama, while then British Prime Minister Brown welcomed the Dalai Lama at the residence of the Archbishop of Canterbury instead of the Prime Minister’s office. Despite such considerations given to the Chinese government, they paid costs including soured political or economic relations with China. But Western leaders may never give up on meeting with the Dalai Lama.
       As is the case with Prime Minister Abe’s self-restraint to keep from visiting Yasukuni Shrine, Japanese bureaucrats and politicians may be overly cautious of angering China or have given too much considerations to the Obama administration that is reportedly reluctant to see any deterioration in Japan-China relations. In contrast to keeping some distance with the Dalai Lama, Prime Minister Abe promptly invited new U.S. Ambassador Caroline Kennedy to his office who had just arrived in Japan. In order to enhance Japan’s reputation and contribute to its national interests, the prime minister should continue to emphasize freedom and human rights as universal values without giving consideration to immediate losses or gains. If Abe maintains the hesitant attitude toward China, he may lose public support that is now robust.

Hironobu Ishikawa is Planning Committee Member at the Japan Institute for National Fundamentals and a journalist.