``It certainly has done great damage to the credibility of the conference and the image of the United Nations,'' said Thubten Samphel, the spokesman for the Tibetan government in exile which is based in Dharmsala, India. ``By staging a walkout they have contributed not only to the United Nations' public relations disaster but also to China's image in the world.''
The United Nations did not sponsor the Millennium World Peace Summit or issue invitations. But U.N. officials did inform the interfaith coalition which organized the program and picked the participants that China would oppose an invitation to the Dalai Lama.
The summit has endured a storm of criticism because conference organizers did not invite the Dalai Lama to the first two days of the event which were held at the United Nations. The Dalai Lama refused an invitation to attend Wednesday and Thursday's meetings at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel in New York.
``Tibetans have always considered the United Nations as a body which genuinely tries to do justice where there is injustice...So right now this U.N. image has been greatly undermined by this bowing to Chinese pressure,'' said Samphel.
The Chinese delegation walked out of the General Assembly chamber Tuesday night when a senior Tibetan monk, Drikung Chestsang Rinpoche, was delivering a message to the conference on behalf of the Dalai Lama.
The Office of Tibet, the U.S. representative of the Dalai Lama, said it marked the first time Tibetans representing the Buddhist leader have spoken in the U.N.'s General Assembly hall since the early 1960s.
China's religious delegates ``withdrew angrily'' from the hall, the country's official Xinhua news agency reported.
``The Dalai Lama is a separatist and turmoil-maker,'' Xinhua quoted the Rev. Cao Shengjie as saying.
China accuses the Tibetan Buddhist leader of ``creating turmoil'' in Tibet, which he fled in 1959 after an abortive uprising against China's occupation.
In his short message, the Tibetan spiritual leader called for interreligious and international dialogue and harmony and asked religious leaders to address the issues of world poverty, injustice and environmental degradation.
Despite his exclusion, the Dalai Lama maintains his support for the aims of the conference, Samphel said.
``His Holiness's message is also intended for that and our delegates will also play their role in trying to make contributions to the deliberations. And when the program has been adopted, we will certainly try to help in the implementation of the action plan the summit will adopt,'' added Tashi Wangdi, Tibet's Minister for Religion and Culture in the exile administration.
The Chinese delegation to the summit includes a Tibetan Buddhist lama, Jamyang Shepa, the abbot of a large monastery in northeastern Tibet who has publicly criticized the Dalai Lama several times since his arrival in the United States.
``He is the only high lama who has publicly criticized His Holiness, and because of that the Chinese government is trying to promote him as the important Tibetan Buddhist leader,'' said Wangdi. ``So I think in Tibet his credibility would be zero now. And internationally everybody has seen him as a Chinese stooge, a Tibetan who is being used as a mouthpiece of the Chinese government.''