A statement by visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing about Chinese objection to a possible visit to Japan by the Dalai Lama has started a public debate in the Japanese media. Readers are criticizing the Chinese stand by saying it is interference in Japanese internal affairs and that the action is odd when there is a “promise” of a “more productive relationship” between China and the Tibetan Government-in-Exile.

During a meeting with senior officials of Japanese political parties in Tokyo on August 11, 2003, Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing complained that the plans by Japanese parliamentarians to invite the Dalai Lama “would damage relationships between Tokyo and Beijing.” However, Naoto Kan, leader of the opposition Democratic Party of Japan, responded that the political parties could not prevent action of any individual Diet members of Japan, according to the Mainichi Daily News.

Japanese Foreign Minister Yoriko Kawaguchi (see photo) said on August 11, 2003 that Japan has not yet decided on the Dalai Lama’s visit.

“Japan’s basic stance is that Tibetan issues are internal affairs for China, and Japan will deal with any visa application in line with relevant laws,” Kawaguchi was quoted as telling visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing over dinner, according to Kyodo.

On March 27, 2003, Mainichi reported that the scheduled November visit to Japan by the Dalai Lama is being organized by a bipartisan group of Diet members from the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and the Democratic Party of Japan (DPJ). The report said, “A Chinese Embassy official even lobbied Katsuya Okada, the DPJ’s secretary general, to pressure the bipartisan group to cancel the Dalai Lama’s visit. Okada told the official that his party was unable to give any orders to the group.

China has objected to visits by the Dalai Lama to Japan in the past, too, threatening that this would “hinder thesmooth development of bilateral ties between the two nations,” and that Japan needs “to safeguard the overall Sino-Japanese relations.”

The official Japanese position on the issue seems to be that they will go by the rules, as mentioned by Foreign Minister Kawaguchi. In 1995 when there was a similar situation, the Japanese Government spokesman responded to a media query by saying, “The application by the Dalai Lama for a visa to enter Japan was made through proper channels, the application was examined in accordance with the laws and regulations of Japan, and the visa was also issued in accordance with the laws and regulations of Japan. We have explained this to the Chinese side, and we are hopeful that they understand our position.”

The issue has also figured on Japanese internet discussion forum. The following are postings found on the site of Japan Today with the spelling kept as they appear.

  • Lotus in the Hills, August 12, 2003

    It’s odd that China is still pushing the same lines on countries planning to receive the Dalai Lama, especially now that there seems to be promise, however slight, of a more productive, worthwhile relationship between China and the gov. in exile. How can China, on the one hand, meet with the Dalai Lama’s senior officals, and on the other, still be spreading these preposterous, worn-out warnings to any foreign country His Holiness wants to visit? The international Buddhist community has no doubt suffered from this paranoid stance of China’s, as the leader of Tibet’s form of Buddhism has been absent from far too many Buddhist congresses.

  • H2SO4, August 12, 2003

    China insists Japanese officials should not visit certain shrines to the war dead.

    China insists Japan should not allow in the Dalai Lama.

    China says this and that but how about China listening to other countries’ reequests like human rights for its people?

    Whats next should Japan listen to what North Korea wants too?

    Happy I wasnt born in China or North Korea.

  • BurtcoKain, August 12, 2003

    Climb back under your ROCK, Kawaguchi because Tibetan issues affect us ALL

    It’s an issue of HUMAN RIGHTS how can you have such gall?

    To deny His Holiness’ entry, due to “relevant laws” you impartis a dreadful and heinous crime against your own HEART.

  • staninjapan, August 12, 2003

    “Japan’s basic stance is that the issue of Japanese visas are entirely internal affairs of Japan, and that China should butt right out of it, OK? “, Kawaguchi was quoted as telling visiting Chinese Foreign Minister Li Zhaoxing over dinner. (Dokyo News)

  • Mike O, August 12, 2003

    Can this be the same China that’s always telling other countries not to stick their noses into its internal affairs? The resemblance is quite uncanny, but the rhetoric is suddenly different.

    The Dalai Lama lives in India (not China) and wants to go to Japan (not China). Why would a Japanese visa be any business of China’s?

  • Zach, August 13, 2003

    How pitiful!!! China has made little progress with regaurds to Human Rights since Mau’s death almost 30 years ago. They ilegally occupy Tibet and, really, for no damn reason at all. Now they think they can tell the Japanese how to handle their Visa program – how dare they. If Kawaguchi refuses entrance to the most peaceful person on Earth because of pressure from the Chinese, then he might as well move to China.