Chinese Buddhists leave in protest of Tibet group

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Chinese Buddhists leave in protest of Tibet group

A Chinese delegation attending a Buddhist gathering in Korea returned home yesterday in the middle of the event, in protest of the presence of the Tibetan delegation, according to the organizers of the event.

The 17 Chinese delegates left Korea early yesterday before the second day of the World Fellowship of Buddhists conference being held in Yeosu, South Jeolla, an official for the organizing committee of the conference said. The five-day conference is to run through Friday, and the Chinese delegation was initially scheduled to leave for China on Saturday, the official said.

The Chinese delegation did not explain its abrupt departure, but “it appears to be due to what happened yesterday with the Tibetan delegation,” the official said.

The WFB, one of the most prominent international Buddhist societies, kicked off its Korean meeting on Tuesday, and around 320 top representatives of 24 countries gathered in Yeosu ahead of the opening ceremony to discuss the pending issues.
Tibet, one of the member countries of the WFB, sent three representatives, including Samdhong Rinpoche, a former prime minister of Tibet’s government-in-exile, to attend the meeting.

The Chinese delegation threatened to boycott the meeting unless the Tibetans were turned away, the organizers said.

The Tibetans refused to leave though were urged to do so by a senior official from the Thailand-based WFB headquarters to ensure “smooth procedure of the meeting,” the organizers said. The Korean organizing committee has not taken an official stance over the issue, only expressing hope that the remaining schedule carries on smoothly.

However, an official of the committee said on condition of anonymity that they were embarrassed by the dispute. The event is designed to enhance unity among Buddhist communities around the world.

The organizing committee official said it was unprecedented for the Chinese delegation to boycott the WFB events in protest of the Tibetan issue. The biennale conference has been held in member countries since the WFB was founded in 1950.

Activists in Tibet are calling for independence or autonomy, while China calls them separatists.

By Moon Gwang-lip, Kim Hyo-eun [joe@joongang.co.kr]

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