Gere: Canadian PM should meet Dalai Lama publicly

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Richard Gere chided Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper on Friday for meeting with the Dalai Lama privately rather than publicly.

Harper met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader in his Parliament Hill office Friday. His office billed the meeting as a "private courtesy call," in an apparent bid to avoid tensions with China. Canada's Conservative government has ambitious trade goals with China, which regards the Dalai Lama as a separatist and opposes any contact between him and foreign leaders.

The Dalai Lama was in Ottawa to address the 6th World Parliamentarians' Convention on Tibet, a gathering of lawmakers and academics from around the world to discuss the situation in Tibet.

"The positive thing was that he met him. The less positive thing is that it wasn't public," Gere said at a news conference. The "Pretty Woman" star, a practicing Buddhist and longtime activist in the movement to free Tibet, was in Ottawa to chair a panel discussion during the parliamentarians' conference.

Canada conferred honorary citizenship to the Dalai Lama in 2006 and Harper angered the Chinese Embassy when he met the Tibetan leader in 2007. However, he has since made two trips to China to boost trade with the Asian economic superpower.

"I have no trouble with trade with the Chinese, but to diminish ourselves in the process is a double death for the Chinese people, because it perpetuates the totalitarian state and it kills us in the core of who we are," Gere said.

Carl Vallee, the prime minister's spokesman, declined to give details on the meeting between Harper and the Dalai Lama.

"He met with him as an international spiritual leader and an honorary Canadian citizen," Vallee said in response to why the meeting was held in private.