Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard refused to meet the Dalai Lama during his visit to the country’s Parliament House on Tuesday, but she said the snub had nothing to do with pressure from China — or because the Tibetan spiritual leader repeatedly confused her gender during a news conference.
Gillard cited a busy schedule for her decision not to meet the Dalai Lama, and denied the snub was due to Chinese influence. China has extensive ties with Australia, particular in the mining sector.
"I make my own decisions and the government makes its own decisions about meetings that we hold," Gillard told reporters, the Associated Press reports.
China regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous “splittist” and a “wolf in monk’s clothing,” who wants Tibetan independence from China — a charge he denies.
A meeting in 2008 between the Dalai Lama and the acting prime minister of Australia brought a strong rebuke from Beijing, the typical Chinese response to world leaders that meet with the Tibetan Buddhist holy leader.
But the Dalai Lama said he wasn’t disappointed that Gillard, Australia’s first female prime minister, had refused to meet with him, the Telegraph reports.
"If your prime minister has some kind of spiritual interest, then of course, my meeting would be useful, otherwise I have nothing to ask him. Also, you see, there's no point to seek advice from him," the Dalai Lama said during a news conference.
“Oh, from her,” the 75-year-old said with a laugh, after one of his aides corrected him on Gillard’s gender.
Some Australian lawmakers criticized Gillard for being out of step with key ally the United States, where the Dalai Lama has met with President Barack Obama, the AP reports.
While in Australia, the Dalai Lama is meeting with conservative opposition party leaders and education minister and former rock star Peter Garrett, who will represent the government, The Australian reports.
Garrett, a former environmental activist and lead singer of Midnight Oil, also met the Dalai Lama on behalf of the government when he last visited in 2009.
The Dalai Lama recently gave up his political authority over Tibetans, but remains their spiritual leader.