he Government was spoken to by the Chinese Embassy before a visit by the Dalai Lama, and no representative met him on his visit to Christchurch.

Wellington, however, insists it was not influenced in how it approached the visit.

The Tibetan spiritual leader spoke to thousands at a free public event in Christchurch yesterday as part of a recently-arranged visit in support of the people after the February earthquake that claimed 181 lives. He earlier wrote to Prime Minister John Key conveying his sympathies over the disaster.

A spokesman for Mr Key told the Herald the two-day visit was private and no meetings had been requested.

However, questions have been raised about whether the Government's lack of involvement had anything to do with the ongoing tensions between the Chinese and the Dalai Lama over the struggle for independence for Tibet.

"A brief representation was made to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade by the Chinese Embassy after details of the Dalai Lama's trip were made public," Mr Key's spokeswoman said.

"Central government was not approached by the Dalai Lama Trust to meet with the Dalai Lama.

If any requests had been received, they would have been dealt with on a case-by-case basis."

Asked yesterday about the lack of an official welcome or meeting with Government representatives, the Dalai Lama told the Herald he would have been happy to meet officials, but if it was inconvenient, it was no problem. He said meeting the people was most important.

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