University recalls email to maintain China link

October 2, 2008

It sounds innocuous enough - a short piece in a university newsletter celebrating an honorary doctorate awarded to a visiting dignitary several months ago.

But because the dignitary in question is the Dalai Lama and the bulletin was sent to London Metropolitan University's academic partners in China, it has caused a rumpus.

The decision to honour the Tibetan leader sparked protests in China earlier this year, forcing the university to express "regret for any unhappiness" it had caused. After reading the newsletter report, one of the university's deans feared that the row could be reignited.

In an email requesting that it not be sent to a partner in China, Brian Bointon, dean of the faculty of life sciences, said: "We have spent a lot of time over the summer defusing the effects of the Dalai Lama on this important link and in fact had to approach the Ministry of Education directly to have the programme re-accredited in China ... Whatever we think personally about the attitude of China to Tibet we do not want to reignite old flames."

The newsletter had already been sent out, so a plan was hatched to recall it and send a "more sensitive version" instead.

However, this drew strong criticism from another academic partner of the university, Rabbi Michael Shire from Leo Baeck College.

He said: "LMU honoured his Holiness the Dalai Lama particularly because he advocates non-violent reconciliation with the people of China. How LMU now can hide this fact from its partners in China is a travesty of the whole honours system of degrees."

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