Trinity College Dublin has said the Dalai Lama – the spiritual leader of Tibetans – may yet receive an honorary doctorate from the university.
he Sunday independent revealed last week that the Honorary Diplomas Committee, chaired by Mary McAleese – former President of Ireland and Chancellor of Trinity – had removed a proposed honor for the Dalai Lama from its agenda in December 2019 after Ms McAleese outlined how the university and Ireland could expect ‘serious’ impact from China.
A senior Trinity official said the university would be “foolish” to ignore that it has spent 15 years building ties with China and that work could be jeopardized by a symbolic gesture. China invaded and annexed Tibet in 1950.
Sources expressing concerns about the decision were told last week that Trinity could still honor the Dalai Lama as his name is still on the university’s list.
Barry Ward, a Fine Gael Senator, said the 2019 decision was a “worrying move” by Trinity.
“Universities’ decisions on honorary degrees and all academic matters should be made without fear of the Chinese Communist Party,” he said.
Mr. Ward met Linda Doyle, Trinity’s Provost, at the Plowing Championships last week and sought to meet her.
“Some of us in the Oireachtas are concerned about the increasing weight China is placing on institutions,” Mr Ward said. “I was on the UCD board of directors for years and felt uncomfortable with the funding of the Confucius Institute.
“There are a lot of commercial opportunities that seem dependent on not interfering with what China wants. They seem to be trying to crush anyone who disagrees with them.”
Mr Ward, a member of the Interparliamentary Alliance on China, said Chinese influence on academic institutes is having a “pervasive effect”.
“I suspect that no one from the Chinese government has said, ‘If you honor the Dalai Lama, we will screw you,’ but the fact is that the latent concern affects the way people think.
“What if a student wants to write a thesis about Tiananmen Square, the impact of China’s national security law, or the Uyghur genocide? Will they get academic support?”
Mr Ward has particular concerns about Chinese tech espionage among its critics.
He was contacted by the Chinese ambassador for his comments on the Uighur genocide and offered to meet the ambassador at his embassy.
“I’ve been warned by Irish officials not to bring my phone if I meet him at the Chinese embassy – because their technology will extract all the information from it,” he said.
The Chinese embassy did not respond to a request for comment.
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/news/trinitys-honorary-degree-for-dalai-lama-could-yet-be-awarded-despite-expected-backlash-from-china-42015074.html Trinity’s honorary title of Dalai Lama may yet be awarded – despite expected backlash from China