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Last Updated: Wednesday, 6 July, 2005, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
Dalai Lama marks 70th birthday
His Holiness The Dalai Lama arrives at celebrations to mark his 70th birthday in Dharamsala, 06 July 2005
The Dalai Lama is due to address crowds of well-wishers
Thousands of Tibetan exiles have celebrated the Dalai Lama's 70th birthday in the northern Indian town of Dharamsala.

A Tibetan dance and music festival is being staged in honour of the event.

The Dalai Lama has lived in India since he fled from Chinese troops in 1959, basing his government-in-exile in the hill-top town.

He began Wednesday's festivities by unveiling a book on India's independence hero, Mahatma Gandhi.

The Dalai Lama's personal secretary, Tensing Takala, told the BBC that various celebrations were planned.

"The birthday celebrations began early today and are continuing with great enthusiasm, despite the heavy monsoon rain here. Large numbers of Tibetans have been standing outside his holiness' home since morning," he said.

The Dalai Lama also spoke to the journalists outside his home. Responding to a query whether the Tibetan dispute with China would be resolved in his lifetime, the Dalai Lama smiled and said: "I hope so. We need patience and determination".

Revered leader

But China is unlikely to give him the birthday gift he most wants - movement on negotiations over the future of Tibet.

Ever since he fled to India, he has spent his time in exile pushing for greater autonomy for Tibet from Chinese rule.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao said on Tuesday that China would not change its stance on Tibet, and that the exiled spiritual leader should admit it was part of China.

"Only under such conditions can the central government hold discussions on the fate of his future," Mr Liu said.

Chinese government representatives and envoys of the Dalai Lama held closed talks last week in Geneva, but there has been no word of any progress.

The Dalai Lama is revered by the Tibetan people as their spiritual leader.

Born on 6 July 1935, to a farming family in north-eastern Tibet, he was recognised at the age of two as the incarnation of the 13th Dalai Lama, Thubten Gyatso.

Since then he has lived much of his life as a simple monk, spending many hours praying and meditating.

But his life changed course dramatically after Chinese troops invaded eastern Tibet in 1951. Eight years later, during a bloody suppression of an anti-Chinese uprising, the Dalai Lama and his government fled.

As the head of an unrecognised government, he has also become a de facto diplomat, rallying people around the world to his cause.

He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his non-violent struggle for Tibet.

Watch the Dalai Lama's birthday message

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