Dalai Lama attacks China at start of Western tour

The Dalai Lama accused China of ”suppression” and demanded autonomy for Tibet as he arrived Thursday in Germany to start a Western tour ahead of the Beijing Olympics.

”The Chinese political authorities’ reaction, as before, was suppression. So it is very sad,” he said of China’s military crackdown on violent protests in Lhasa in March that Tibetan leaders say left 200 dead.

The Dalai Lama called for autonomy for the Himalayan region invaded by Chinese troops in 1950 and stressed that Tibetans wanted to live in peace with China.

”Genuine harmony must come on the basis of trust, trust very much based on equality,” he said after landing in Frankfurt.

”So far these are lacking. We need genuine autonomy.”

He added that better relations with Tibet, was ”in the own interest of the people of this huge country”, but that instead communist-ruled China had become ”more leftist” and created resentment well beyond Tibet’s borders.

”That policy is bringing more crisis, more demonstrations than in 1959,” when he fled to India following a failed uprising against Chinese rule.

”Even Tibetan students in Peking [Beijing], even these people have joined in expressing their feelings with candlelight vigils. It is an indication of their resentment.”

The 1989 Nobel peace laureate’s salvo kicked off a tour that will also take him to the United States, Australia, Britain and France and only conclude days before the end of the Olympics on August 20.

China’s reaction to the Tibet unrest drew international condemnation and heaped pressure on Beijing over human rights ahead of the Games, with activists disrupting the global relay of the Olympic torch in a public relations disaster for the host country.

The Tibetan government-in-exile based in Dharamshala in India says 203 Tibetans were killed and 1 000 injured in Beijing’s crackdown.

Beijing says Tibetan ”rioters” and ”insurgents” killed 21 people and accused the Dalai Lama of being behind the violence and fomenting trouble ahead of the Olympics.

This month his representatives held talks with China to try to defuse tensions. The Dalai Lama’s schedule here has raised eyebrows as he will meet neither Chancellor Angela Merkel, who is in Latin America, nor Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier.

Critics have suggested the government, which has designated Development Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul to meet the Dalai Lama, is seeking to appease China.

Ties between Beijing and Berlin hit freezing point after Merkel in September became the first German leader to receive him at the chancellery and said she supported cultural autonomy for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama’s representative in Europe, Tseten Chhoekyapa, branded Steinmeier’s decision not to meet the Dalai Lama ”an unhappy one”.

China has still raised objections over the visit.

A Chinese diplomat told Thursday’s edition of the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung that Beijing would protest to the Foreign Ministry against Monday’s meeting with Wieczorek-Zeul.

”We will remain consistent. We object to a member of the German goverment receiving the Dalai Lama and to Germany allowing him to carry out this visit,” Junhui Zhang, a counselor at the Chinese embassy in Berlin, told the paper.

He accused the Dalai Lama of ”playing politics”.

The Buddhist leader was due to hold talks with the speaker of Parliament Norbert Lammert, Koch and another state premier and to address the foreign affairs committee of Parliament.

The chairperson of the committee, Ruprecht Polenz, said the committee had rejected a Chinese embassy demand to cancel the meeting.

The second leg of the five-nation swing will take the 72-year-old to Britain for nine days, where he will hold talks with Prime Minister Gordon Brown.

Brown drew fire on Wednesday after it emerged that he will not meet the Tibetan spiritual leader in his Downing Street office, as his predecessors Tony Blair and John Major had done. – AFP



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