China Must Respect Democracy

June 13th 2007

Queensland, Australia, 13 June 2007 (AAP) - The Dalai Lama has visited a zoo in Queensland from where he urged people to take greater care of animals, amid anger from China over his meetings with Australian leaders.

The spiritual leader adressed around 5,000 people packed into the Crocoseum amphitheatre at the late Steve Irwin's Australia Zoo near Brisbane.

His speech was also attended by Terri and Bindi Irwin.

The exiled Tibetan leader's 50 minute address was dominated by the themes of environment and kindness to animals.
Respect our democracy

Earlier Foreign Minister Alexander Downer called on China to respect Australia's democracy and accept its decision to welcome the Dalai Lama to the country.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader is taking part in an 11-day tour of Australian cities, and is expected to meet Prime Minister John Howard during his visit.

But the trip has sparked a diplomatic row between the Howard Government and its Chinese counterpart, with Beijing expressing its 'strong dissatisfaction' that the elderly monk has been allowed into the country.

Mr Downer said he had taken note of China's comments, but had asked diplomats and politicians to accept the differences between the two states.

'I've explained to the Chinese on a number of occasions that in this country, the Dalai Lama is regarded as a religious figure, a significant religious figure.

'It's just not a proposition for us to refuse to give someone like the Dalai Lama a visa to visit Australia,' he told Sky News.

'China has a very different political system from Australia but I've asked the Chinese to respect the way our culture and our political system works.'

Fellow Liberal politicians have backed the Government's stance on the issue, arguing it is inappropriate to accept 'orders' from other countries.

Chinese pressure

'We're not going to be stood over by the Chinese,' said West Australian MP Don Randall. 'We don't ever get stood over by some foreign power, certainly not China.'

'This guy's the Dalai Lama,' said Queensland MP Cameron Thompson. 'It's just not right for a country to say to another,

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