Labour adds to pressure on Boris Johnson over Dalai Lama

Friday, 18 September 2015

As Labour London Assembly leader invites Dalai Lama to City Hall, Mayor still silent


Following calls from campaigners and Green Party Assembly members for Boris Johnson to welcome the Dalai Lama to London this week, Leader of the Labour Group at the London Assembly Len Duvall has extended its welcome and issued an invitation to the Dalai Lama to visit City Hall. The Mayor has yet to respond to calls from campaigners and Green Party AMs to do the same (1). The Dalai Lama will be giving public talks in London over the weekend, on his first trip to the capital since 2012 (2).


Campaign group Free Tibet challenged the Mayor to extend a formal welcome to the Tibetan spiritual leader and Nobel Peace Prize winner in a letter in August (3). Green Party members of the London Assembly endorsed the call this week and contacted the Mayor.


Mr Duvall says:


“With his Holiness a strong advocate for all that is fair and humane, it is an honour to have him visit our wonderful, diverse city. Our capital is resolutely dedicated to the values of tolerance, respect and freedom. If there is an opportunity to meet with the Dalai Lama to discuss how we can ensure these values reach all Londoners, of course we’d take it.”


 Free Tibet director Eleanor Byrne-Rosengren says:


“The very welcome invitation from Len Duvall has left Boris Johnson increasingly exposed. It’s now possible that one of the world’s most respected leaders will visit City Hall and the Mayor of London will hide in his office. Other politicians are willing to pay respect on London’s behalf to the Dalai Lama, and just as importantly to refuse to bow to the wishes of China’s unelected, authoritarian regime. As long as the Mayor remains silent, however, there’s an implication that London can be pushed around by Beijing. Not many Londoners will welcome that.


The people of Tibet risk their lives to stand up to China’s intimidation – surely the Mayor of London can risk a few strong words from the ambassador. As China’s government well knows, meeting the Dalai Lama doesn’t mean you support independence for Tibet. It just means you have the backbone to stand up to a bully.”



Green AM Jenny Jones says:


“It’s the job of the Mayor to represent this city and its values, not just to tout for business. With China’s economy looking shaky and the capital’s increasing importance as a trading partner, what happens here has influence there. Boris Johnson should pay respect to a great leader - and show Beijing and the world that London is big enough and strong enough not to trade away its values in the hope of a fast buck.”



London is a key UK trading partner with China and the Mayor has been an enthusiastic advocate of closer ties with the country (4). In 2013 he undertook a trade trip to China, where he notoriously tried to avoid saying the Dalai Lama’s name in a UK television interview and declined to make any comment on human rights (5).







Free Tibet media manager Alistair Currie:
T: +44 (0)207 324 4605

Notes to editors


  1. Free Tibet press release 17 September

Copy of letter available from Free Tibet

The Dalai Lama is currently in the UK. He has public speaking engagements in London on 19 and 20 September and will be meeting MPs in the House of Commons on 22 September. He visited the UK for two days in June this year to attend the Glastonbury festival but did not come to London.

According to the Greater London Authority, London receives 60% of all Chinese direct foreign investment in the UK and development deals are worth billions of pounds. Before his 2013 trip, Boris Johnson said “I will be taking every chance we can to promote London as the best big city to invest in. The ties between London and China have grown strong over many hundreds of years - this trip aimed at making that bond even stronger."  Source: GLA press release, 11 October 2013

Huffington Post, 13 October