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Tibet gets a warmer reception as world wakes to Beijing's methods

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Illustration: Andrew Dyson

The leader of Tibet's government-in-exile has been telling his story about Bob Carr around the world for years and always gets a laugh. Last week he recounted it during a visit to Parliament House in Canberra.

Ever since the Dalai Lama split his job into two some years ago, remaining spiritual leader of the Tibetans in exile and handing over the political leadership to be elected from among the free Tibetans, Lobsang Sangay has been their President.

Lobsang Sangay, President of the Tibetan government-in-exile, right, smiles as he listens to the Dalai Lama in Dharmsala, India.Credit:AP

In 2013 Sangay visited Canberra and a reporter asked him whether Carr, Australia's then foreign affairs minister, would be meeting him. It's always a delicate matter.

A government that meets the Dalai Lama or Sangay risks the wrath of the Chinese Communist Party, which has claimed to be the sole representative of the Tibetan people ever since its army invaded Tibet in 1950.

"I said I'd love to, but I haven't asked for a meeting", not wanting to put Carr in a difficult position, he recalled last week. "I'm sure that, given the choice, Bob Carr would like to meet because that's the Buddhist culture – we like to believe people are good."

Later in his visit, the Tibetan leader was riding the lift from Parliament's subterranean carpark into the building when the lift stopped. "The doors open and Bob Carr walks in," the Harvard-educated medical doctor tells me. The Labor backbencher Michael Danby, Sangay's escort for the visit, introduced the two men in the lift: "I had to decide at that moment whether to extend my hand or not. The Tibetan way is to not cause inconvenience, so I nodded and smiled. He kind of nodded - a little bit -........

© Canberra Times