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Wednesday, March 10, 1999 Published at 12:47 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Dalai Lama seeks Tibet talks

In Delhi Tibetan exiles burnt an effigy of China's President Jiang Zemin

The BBC's Mike Woolridge reports from the Tibetan Government in exile, Dharamsala
The Tibetan spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, has appealed for an end to what he called the "deep distrust" between Tibetans and Chinese.

"This distrust will not go away in a day. It will dissipate only through face-to-face meetings and sincere dialogues," he said.

[ image: Actor Richard Gere was amongst the 4,000-strong audience]
Actor Richard Gere was amongst the 4,000-strong audience
He was speaking in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala on the 40th anniversary of the Tibetan uprising against Chinese rule.

Speaking to an audience that included Hollywood stars Goldie Hawn and Richard Gere, the Dalai Lama said the Chinese Government had hardened its attitude towards him recently and intensified repression in Tibet.

He said secret talks through unidentified intermediaries has broken down last year "without any obvious reason".

Political will lacking

"A lack of political will and courage on the part of the Chinese leadership has resulted in their failure to reciprocate my numerous overtures over the years," he said.

[ image: The Dalai Lama says China has intensified repression in Tibet]
The Dalai Lama says China has intensified repression in Tibet
He also repeated that he was not seeking independence for Tibet, but what he called genuine autonomy.

In the Indian capital, Delhi, a crowd of around 5,000 Tibetan protesters burned 40 Chinese flags, lit firecrackers and burned an effigy representing Chinese President Jiang Zemin.

The Dalai Lama and large numbers of his Buddhist followers fled across the Himalayas to India four decades ago after thousands of Tibetans were killed as Chinese troops moved to crush a rebellion against a decade of Chinese rule.

The full interview with the Dalai Lama
Since then Dharamsala has been the base for the Tibetan government-in-exile.

In an interview with the BBC to mark the occasion, the Dalai Lama said he did not regret his flight but that informal contact with the Chinese Government was not working properly.

Significant change

[ image: Thousands of Buddhists have fled Tibet into exile]
Thousands of Buddhists have fled Tibet into exile
But he said that there had been 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. "

Beijing meanwhile has used the 40th anniversary to renew its criticism of the Dalai Lama accusing him of being afraid to negotiate.

At a press conference earlier this week Tibet's governor said the Dalai Lama had not done a single good thing for the Tibetan people.

Highlights from the Dalai Lama's interview with BBC World Service
China says it has improved the living standards for Tibetans over the past 40 years.

State media described the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader as a tool of anti-China forces, accusing him of sponsoring terrorism in the region and acting as an obstacle to the observance of Tibetan Buddhism.

Feudal serfdom

[ image: Beijing has opened a major exhibition hailing Tibetan reforms]
Beijing has opened a major exhibition hailing Tibetan reforms
The People's Daily newspaper said the 1959 uprising was an attempt to revive feudal serfdom by an upper-class reactionary clique.

"Tibetan society before the democratic reform was darker and more cruel than Europe's system of serfdom in the Middle Ages and can be said to have been one of the world's most serious violations of human rights," the newspaper said.

In the capital a major exhibition has opened showcasing what Beijing says is proof of China's right to rule the Himalayan region.

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

It compares the figures with what it says was the backwardness and feudalism under the Dalai Lama's rule.

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