The University of Sydney, one of Australia’s top institutions of higher learning, has reversed a decision taken earlier this month to cancel a talk by Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, and will now allow the exiled religious figure to speak.
Fear of angering China, which regards the Dalai Lama as a dangerous separatist, or “splittist,” was widely believed to have been behind the university’s earlier decision to cancel the talk.
The university’s Institute for Democracy and Human Rights (IDHR) will now host an “on-campus lecture” by the Dalai Lama for students at the University of Sydney in mid-June, Professor John Keane, IDHR director, said in a statement.
“This will be the first engagement of the Dalai Lama during his Australian tour,” Keane said, adding that the Tibetan spiritual leader will speak on the topic “Education Matters.”
The Dalai Lama will visit Australia from June 14-23 and is scheduled to give talks and religious teachings in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, and Darwin.
'Free to invite'
“The University of Sydney and IDHR remain firmly committed to the principle that academics are free to invite to our campus anyone who has a legitimate contribution to make to public debate,” Keane said in announcing the spiritual leader’s newly scheduled appearance at the university.
“It is hoped the mid-June event will form part of a determined commitment of the University of Sydney to develop a constructive dialogue on matters concerning Tibet and the wider region.”
Australia’s national public broadcaster ABC News reported last week that it had obtained copies of an e-mail exchange between the IDHR head and the university’s vice chancellor confirming the initial decision to cancel the Dalai Lama’s originally scheduled talk.
The vice chancellor’s reply exuded a sense of relief, according to ABC, saying the university has close ties with China.
“The only explanation for this shocking decision is that the University has caved in to pressure from China,” Students for a Free Tibet (SFT), an advocacy group, said on April 19 as it launched a worldwide petition drive calling on the university to “rectify their mistake.”
In a statement on Wednesday, SFT thanked “all those who took part in signing the petition and making those direct calls to Sydney University to voice your concerns.”
“A big lesson for all universities to remember: propaganda is cheap, academic freedom is priceless,” SFT said.