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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 00:15 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Dalai Lama committed to change

China marks the anniversary with an exhibition hailing Tibetan reforms

Wednesday marks the 40th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule, during which thousands of Tibetans were killed and the country's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled to India.

The full interview with the Dalai Lama
The Tibetan uprising started on 10 March 1959 after nearly a decade of Chinese rule when a group of Tibetans in the capital, Lhasa, rebelled against being ruled by Beijing.

Chinese troops were quick to crush the rebellion but thousands of Tibetans were killed in the fighting.

During the confusion, the Dalai Lama and most of his ministers fled to India where they set up their government in exile.

The BBC's Mike Woolridge reports from the Tibetan Government in exile, Dharamsala
In an interview with the BBC to mark the occasion, the Dalai Lama says he does not regret his flight and he remains fully committed to seeking "genuine autonomy" for Tibet. But, he says, he does not want full independence.

China has repeatedly questioned the Dalai Lama's claims that he is not seeking independence for Tibet.

The spiritual leader also says he regrets that informal contact with the Chinese Government is not working properly.

Highlights from the Dalai Lama's interview with BBC World Service
But, he says, there has been a noticeable change in the Chinese attitude since last autumn with "genuine support and concern (for Tibetans) within China.

However, the Chinese Government has intensified its campaign against the Dalai Lama in the run-up to the anniversary..

At a news conference, Tibet's governor Raidi criticised the Dalai Lama saying he had not done a single good thing for the Tibetan people.

China, by contrast, says they have improved the living standards for Tibetans over the past 40 years.

Frustration and optimism

The Dalai Lama says there are reasons to be optimistic about the future although the situation looks unpromising from within Tibet.

[ image: The Dalai Lama: Informal contact with China
The Dalai Lama: Informal contact with China "not working properly"
"There are more clear signs of frustration among Tibetans. If we look only the situation inside Tibet, there are more reasons to feel frustrated and desperate. However, if you look from wider perspective, there are reasons for optimism," he told the BBC.

He sees a significant change in the world attitude towards the Tibetan cause.

"I think in recent years there has been a lot more support - genuine, spontaneous support for the just cause. "

"And then most importantly among the Chinese, not only outside but also inside China, there is more and more genuine support and concern. That is very encouraging."

Tibet according to China

The BBC's Rob Gifford in Beijing: "China stresses backwardness and feudalism of the Dalai Lama's rule"
China is marking the anniversary with an exhibition in Beijing, detailing what it calls the beginning of democratic reforms in Tibet.

The exhibition highlights official statistics, stating that since 1959, life expectancy has nearly doubled, grain output has increased, and now over 80% of school-aged children attend classes.

[ image: Thousands of Tibetans sneak to India to catch a glimpse of the exiled leader]
Thousands of Tibetans sneak to India to catch a glimpse of the exiled leader
The Chinese Government compares these figures with what it says was the backwardness and feudalism under the Dalai Lama's rule.

The governor of Tibet told a news conference that he believes the Dalai Lama is both unwilling and afraid to negotiate.

A BBC correspondent in Beijing says in recent years, both sides have said that they want a resolution to the problem but this seems as far away as ever.

He thinks he made a "100-per-cent" right decision 40 years ago to leave Tibet.

"I think that life of a stateless refugee has provided me a good opportunity to meet with people from different backgrounds and different religious traditions. As an individual, I think I have had very useful experiences."

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