Colombo, January 18 (The Citizen): The Chargé d’affaires of the Chinese Embassy in Sri Lanka Hu Wei, called on the Mahanayake Thero of the Malwathu Chapter of the Siam Nikaya, the Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thero in Kandy on January 11 and told him that China strongly opposes the rumored visit of the 14th Dalai Lama to Sri Lanka.
Hu told the Prelate that the 14 th. Dalai Lama is not a “simple monk” as he claims, but a “separatist” who was also head of the feudal and theocratic system that existed in Tibet prior to the Chinese takeover in 1951.
“He is political exile disguised as a religious figure who has long been engaging in anti-China separatist activities and attempting to split Tibet from China,” Hu said.
“Both sides, especially the Buddhist communities, must prevent a sneaky visit of the Dalai Lama to the island to promote ‘Tibetan independence’ and safeguard China-Sri Lanka historical relations from being damaged,” Hu said, according to a release from the Chinese embassy on Tuesday.
Earlier, Hu told a news channel that Sino-Lankan relations will be damaged if the Sri Lankan government allows the Dalai Lama to visit Sri Lanka.
Charges d’ Affairs Hu Wei told the Lankan monk Malwathu Mahanayake Thero that in the Dalai Lama era, about 1 million people were serfs accounting for 95% of Tibet’s population. Tibet’s GDP was only 129 million RMB and the Life Expectancy was only 35.5 years (in 1951). But under the leadership of the Communist Party of China, the Tibetan people are now enjoying a prosperous economy with a GDP of 31 billion USD and a GDP per capita of USD 8,000 (twice that of Sri Lanka and 4 times of India where he resides now). Longevity is 72.19 years on average. There is freedom of religion with 46,000 monks and nuns in over 1,700 temples in Tibet.
On his part, the Malwathu Mahanayake Thero said: “China is the closest friend of Sri Lanka. Our relations with China must not be hurt. It is better that government also understand the importance of the contribution rendered by China for the uplift of the Sri Lankan economy. We as Sri Lankan are always indebted to China for its continued support and humanitarian assistance to Sri Lanka whenever we are in need.”
He recalled the close friendship between Sri Lanka and China dated from Ven. Faxian Thero’s visit to the island 1,600 years ago, and China’s continued support to Sri Lanka since the latter’s independence, particularly in Mme. Sirimavo Bandaranaike’s time.
“In the last three year fighting against the COVID-19 and economic crisis, China has been assisting us with numerous of PPEs, vaccines, rice, diesel etc., which is fully appreciated by the Sri Lankan people including the Maha Sangha,” the Mahanayeke said.
Recalling his several visits to China including one Buddhist exchange tour in the Tibet Autonomous Region, Most Venerable Thibbatuwawe Sri Siddhartha Sumangala Thero expressed his high appreciation for China’s economic and social development, and the freedom and prosperity of Buddhists in that oriental country.”
Chargé d’affaires Hu Wei also paid courtesy calls on high profile monks like Ven. Dimbulkumbure Wimaladhamma Thero, Anunayake of Malwathu chapter and Ven. Wedaruwe Upali Thero, Ven. Anamaduwe Dhammadassi Thero, Anunayakes of Asgiri chapter on the same day.
Earlier on January 2, the website of Tibetan Review quoted a report in ANI to say that a group of high-ranking Sri Lankan Buddhist monks who were on a pilgrimage to Bodh Gaya ( where the Buddha obtained Enlightenment) in December wanted the Dalai Lama to visit their country, currently reeling under a severe economic crisis.
The report said the Sri Lankan Buddhist leaders met the Dalai Lama at Bodh Gaya on December 27 and were overwhelmed by the large gathering of Buddhists from all over the world who had come to listen to his lectures to be held from December 29 to 31.
“His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) came to India and people should know why he came to India; why he settled down in India. India helped His Holiness, and now because of His Holiness, we know thousands of tourists are in Bodh Gaya,” the Most Venerable Waskaduwe Mahindawansa Mahanayake Thero, Sri Sambuddha Sasanodaya Sangha Sabha was quoted as saying.
“These days, Bodh Gaya is very cold and people usually don’t come, but people are here because of His Holiness. Bodh Gaya is benefitted in many ways,” he added.
He wished that the Dalai Lama would visit Sri Lanka and help that country overcome economic hardships. “If His Holiness goes to Sri Lanka, many thousands of tourists will come to Sri Lanka which will boost the economy because we are in a crisis situation,” the monk said.
Ven. Muruddeniya Dhammarathana Thero of the Asgiri Chapter said: “ Bodh Gaya is like our motherland because Lord Buddha got enlightenment there. We were lucky to meet his Holiness the Dalai Lama and a lot of Lamas and monks from different parts of the world. We saw thousands of people listen to his Holiness the Dalai Lama’s speech. We were very happy listening to his teachings.”
Some 65,000 people, including 3,000 from 80 countries outside India, attended three days of religious teachings given by the Dalai Lama from December 29 to 31 at Bodh Gaya.
Prominent dignitaries included Chief Minister Nitish Kumar of Bihar, the state in which Bodh Gaya is situated, called on the Dalai Lama. Chief Minister Pema Khandu of Arunachal Pradesh attended the lecture on December 31. Incidentally, China claims sovereignty over Arunachal Pradesh which it calls “Southern Tibet”.
On December 31, the Dalai Lama accused Beijing of trying to destroy Buddhism, especially in Tibet, referring to the recent demolition of statues and said that these efforts to destroy Buddhism would not succeed even in China.
“We have strong faith in Buddha Dharma, when I visit trans-Himalayan regions, I find local people very devoted to Dharma and it is the case in Mongolia and in China too though the system (Chinese government) sees Dharma as poison and tried to destroy it, but they were not successful,” Hindustan Times quoted the Dalai Lama as saying.
“ There are many Buddhist monasteries in China. I have been to China many times. Many Buddha Viharas exist there even today. People have Buddhism and Buddha in their minds. There is a lot of attachment towards Buddhism. The Chinese have an ancient relationship with Buddhism.”
The Tibetan spiritual leader in exile in India since the Tibetan revolt against the Chinese rulers in 1959, had been invited to visit the predominantly Buddhist Sri Lanka earlier too. But China had always thwarted such moves. This is most likely to be repeated given Sri Lanka’s heavy financial indebtedness to China.