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London school regrets honoring Dalai Lama
By Li Xiang (China Daily)
Updated: 2008-07-08 08:01

Britain's London Metropolitan University recently apologized for bestowing an honorary doctorate to the Dalai Lama after the move drew intense criticism from a number of Chinese.

Brian Roper, vice-chancellor of the university, expressed in a letter to the Chinese embassy in London on June 16 his regret of his school's move, saying that offering the degree to the Dalai Lama was not a well-considered decision, according to an embassy official last week.

Roper said the university is committed to keeping a good relationship with China and fully supports the Beijing Olympics.

In May, the university presented the Dalai Lama, who was then on a visit to Britain, with an honorary doctorate of philosophy, saying the degree was to recognize his role in "promoting peace globally."

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Angered and offended by the move, Chinese students and Internet users at home and abroad called for a boycott the university, saying its conferment of honors on the Dalai Lama had hurt the feelings of the Chinese people.

Founded in 2002, London Metropolitan University has offered scholarships and financial support to Tibetan students in India and Bhutan. It also has a Free Tibet Society, which advocates the "Independence of Tibet."

Many study abroad agencies in China have reportedly boycotted the university, advising students who wish to study in Britain not to attend the school.

"We would not recommend our students to study at universities that support 'Tibetan independence' and are not friendly to China," a worker at a study abroad agency in Beijing said in an interview with the Global Times.

A staff member of the Chinese embassy in London said the university's apology is sincere but it is not enough to completely offset the negative effect.

"The university should do more to repair its image in the eyes of Chinese students, such as not providing speaking platforms for Tibetan separatists," he said.

He also said the boycott by a number of Chinese students and Internet users is "spontaneous and understandable".

Britain is one of the countries with the largest number of overseas Chinese students. More than 49,000 Chinese students enrolled in British universities in the 2006-07 academic year, figures from the British Higher Education Statistics Agency showed.