Norway's constitution anniversary clouded by snub of Dalai Lama
Norway celebrated the 200th anniversary of its constitution over the weekend, as a controversy rumbled on about the country having betrayed its democratic principles by snubbing the Dalai Lama to please China.
The religious leader, who was in Oslo between May 7 and May 9 to commemorate the 25th anniversary of his Nobel Peace Prize, was not received by any member of Prime Minister Erna Solberg's right-wing government, or the parliament's president.
"The president should have met the Dalai Lama, given that the parliament has the ultimate responsibility for the Peace Prize," Frank Aarebrot, a political science professor at Bergen University, said. The Nobel committee is appointed by the Norwegian assembly.
Others accused the government of "cowardice" and highlighted the contradiction of hailing the anniversary of their constitution, which is the second oldest in the world after the United States, with grandiose words while bending to China out of economic interest.
"The contrast is embarrassingly large to all the fat words that the president of the parliament and others use now in the grand year of the jubilee of the constitution. Words about democracy and independence, freedom of speech and human rights," the political editor of newspaper Aftenposten wrote.
Norway's constitution was drawn up in 1814 in an effort to free the country from the domination of Danes and Swedes, but the country obtained its independence from Sweden only in 1905.
The Dalai Lama is a symbol for the autonomy of the region of Tibet and considered a "separatist" by Beijing.
Since dissident Liu Xiaobo was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2010, Beijing has stopped all high-level diplomatic contact with Norway.
Solberg said the Dalai Lama's visit had put her in a complicated situation.
"I made the difficult choice. It would have been easier to play the hero," she told Norwegian daily Dagbladet.
The Tibetan spiritual leader was received in parliament by several members of the cross-parliamentary committee for Tibet, which includes the governing right-wing parties.
But the meeting was held in a screening room, rather than an official reception room.