Vienna, September 6 – Beijing’s extraordinary sensitivity about anything connected with Tibetan Buddhism was highlighted last week when the Chinese authorities deported a Buryat lama who heads the Ulan-Ude based Society of Friends of Tibet, an Irkutsk newspaper reported today.
But the situation reached the heights of the absurd when the Russian regional airline on which he was riding unsuccessfully attempted to collect from him the additional airport charges Beijing had imposed on the carrier for the extra time its plane spent on the tarmac (“Nomer odin” at http://babr.ru/?pt=news&event=v1&IDE=39702).
At the end of August, Buryat Tuvandorzhi Tsympilov told the paper, he had contracted with a Russian tourist firm to travel to China on a tourist visa. That visa was supposed to be given to him on arrival, but when his Sibirian Airlines plan landed in Beijing, he was told that he was persona non grata and would be immediately deported.
The lama said that “personally” he connects his “deportation with the position” he and other Buryat Buddhists have taken concerning Chinese attacks against the rights of Tibetans and especially their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama. But he stressed that he had traveled to China strictly as a tourist.
Unfortunately, the Chinese decision to deny him a visa and then to deport him caused a minor “diplomatic scandal,” the Irkutsk paper reported, and the Siberian Airlines plane was forced to sit on the runway until Tsympilov could be put aboard by the Chinese authorities.
“The poor people who were already sitting in the plane had to wait several hours,” Tsympilov said. But he reported that the airline had plans for him that made their plight seem much less serious than his own.
Airline officials told him that the Chinese had charged the carrier for the extra time on the ground, and that the airline expected Tsympilov himself to pay them. But he said, “of course, I do not intend to pay for my own deportation because no one will be returning to me the money I spent to travel to China in the first place.”