U.N. officials afraid of offending China deleted a human rights plea by the Dalai Lama from an upcoming book marking the world body's 50th anniversary.
A Vision of Hope has been cut in at least 70 places, while The World in Our Hands, a book written and designed by children from all over the world, also has had controversial sections excised by U.N. officials.
The two glossy books, commissioned by the U.N. from independent publishers, will be handed out to government delegates during the round of anniversary celebrations and sent to schools, colleges and libraries around the world.
Richard Reoch, a freelance writer who wrote the part of the book covering human rights, quoted the Dalai Lama in his section. The remarks asserted the importance of freedom worldwide without mentioning China by name, Reoch said.
But a senior U.N. official handling the project, Gillian Martin Sorensen, said the comments were unacceptable and suggested he find another quotation to express the point, Reoch said by telephone from London.
A U.N. source who requested anonymity said inclusion of the Dalai Lama "was construed as implicit criticism of China, a (U.N.) member state."
China has controlled Tibet since its troops entered in 1951. The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual and temporal leader, fled into exile in 1959 after an anti-Chinese uprising.
Human rights groups say China systematically suppresses Tibet's culture and religion and has dissuaded world leaders from meeting the Dalai Lama.
The cuts in A Vision of Hope range from the banal to the bizarre.
Country names have been excised from captions to photographs and, in one instance, a sentence has been cut that suggested that London and Dublin covered up the extent of the 1845 Irish Famine.
U.N. officials also removed widely publicized allegations that Iraq and North Korea have violated the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and reports of alleged corruption and vote-rigging in the World Health Organization.
Peace Child International, a British-based charity that put together the 96-page children's book, said it was astonished when the U.N. insisted on dropping all country references.
"It's sad, really, that the U.N. does not have the self-confidence at this mature age to allow children to say what they like, but you must not forget U.N. officials are working in a political cage," said project coordinator David Woolcomb.
U.N. official Sorensen said in a statement: "Criticism of individual nations was deleted as this was not the purpose of the book."