A few days ago the Dalai Lama visited the city of Milan in Italy and received the honorary citizenship of the northern capital. After all, the Dalai Lama is a noble prize recipient (Noble prize for peace in 1989) and the perfect candidate for such a symbolic award. Obviously nobody in Milan, nor Italy, saw anything unusual in such a visit, but after China manifested its anger for the event, suddenly everybody is asking themselves why. The visit of a man of such stature and an advocate for peace around the world should never be cause of controversies. Except it should.
The reason is simple. Whether you are a strenuous supporter of Tibet’s independence or a strong believer in the buddhist values of forgiveness and selflessness, for China the Dalai Lama is a rebel, the leader of a non-existing country, actively supporting independence and secession. And so he should be considered by every country that recognizes China’s authority and its government as legitimate. Including, like in this case, Italy.
It should come as no surprise to find out that the Chinese embassy in Rome immediately expressed disappointment and issued a statement, claiming that the Dalai Lama’s visit was a “misstep” on what is becoming quite the solid relationship between Italy and China. China is investing greatly in Italy and in some cities, like Milan, the Chinese population is becoming quite significant. Yet someone forgot all about it when inviting Tenzin Gyatso on an official visit, even going as far as giving him an award. If it wasn’t a “memory lapse”, and it probably was (in which case it would be quite an embarrassing situation for Italian officials), then it must have been a voluntary “poke” at China or, even worst, an outright lack of respect for an ally and, more importantly, a sovereign country.
I have used “harsh” tones in this article, not to criticize the Dalai Lama, what he represents and what he fights for, but to shed light on what could be considered a perfect example of diplomatic incident. By international laws and relations’ standards, from a purely political point of view, giving the Tibetan Leader an award is the equivalent of giving an award to a Kurdish leader from Turkey or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the leader of Daesh. No, I’m not comparing the two human beings. I’m simply comparing their political condition of leaders of inexistent states in open dissent with recognized and legitimate governments.
In a perfect world, the Dalai Lama would be able to meet whomever he wants and receive all the awards of this earth, but the reason why he can’t and shouldn’t in this moment in history should be clear to all.