Czech leaders under fire for downplaying visit by Dalai Lama

The country’s leading politicians have come under fire for issuing a joint statement underlining the country’s interest in maintaining good relations with China in connection with a visit by the Dalai Lama to the Czech Republic. In a statement released on Tuesday President Miloš Zeman, Senate chairman Milan Štěch, lower house speaker Jan Hamáček and Prime Minister Bohuslav Sobotka said the fact that some Czech politicians had met with the Dalai Lama did not signal a change in the country’s official policy. Around fifty Czech senators and deputies of the lower house attended an impromptu meeting with the Dalai Lama on Wednesday to distance themselves from the official stand and some universities hoisted the Tibetan flag in a show of solidarity with the Tibetan spiritual leader. Members of the opposition criticized the joint statement as “a shameful show of servility”. Prime Minister Sobotka defended the statement on Wednesday, saying it merely reflected the country's foreign policy line in relations with China.