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The BBC's Duncan Hewitt
"There has as yet been no formal request for political asylum from the Karmapa"
 real 28k

Monday, 10 January, 2000, 17:21 GMT
Asylum plea for Karmapa Lama

Karmapa Lama The Karmapa Lama left before dawn for an unknown destination

The Tibetan Government in-exile has expressed hope that India would respond favourably to any request for asylum for the 14-year-old Buddhist leader who fled Chinese-ruled Tibet.

However, no formal request for asylum had been made on his behalf, Tashi Wangdi, Tibetan Minister for Religion and Culture said.

"India has this great tradition of being very generous for people coming for shelter.

India has this great tradition of being very generous for people coming for shelter
Tashi Wangdi

"We have been coming here for so many decades, if there is a strong request for asylum it should be on a humanitarian consideration," reports quote him as saying.

The Dalai Lama is reported to have sought asylum for the boy in India.

The Asian Age newspaper said foreign and home ministry officials had met the Dalai Lama over the weekend and would hold a news briefing on Monday.

The 17th Karmapa Lama arrived in India last week after an arduous eight-day journey by car and on foot across the Himalayas.

He has since been moved to a secure location near the Dalai Lama's monastery in Dharmasala, away from the pressures of international media attention and the many exiled Tibetans hoping to catch a glimpse of him.

Guard There has been tight security since the Karmapa Lama arrived in Dharamsala

Meanwhile, the BBC's Mike Woolridge says the government in Delhi continues to weigh its options on the boy's presence in India, something which could complicate relations with China.

Click here to see map of the Karmapa's route

'Black Hats'

Earlier, the Karmapa appeared composed and unemotional as he sped off into hiding under cover of darkness on Sunday.

He had stayed at the Dalai Lama's official guesthouse since his arrival in India on Wednesday.

Dalai Lama The Dalai Lama received the Karmapa on Saturday

The Karmapa's Kagyupa sect, known as the "Black Hats," was once Tibet's most politically powerful, but was supplanted by the Gelugpa school of the Dalai Lama 350 years ago.

There is speculation that he may eventually take up residence at a monastery in the Sikkim border province, where his predecessor settled after fleeing Tibet.

The black hat which is a symbol of his authority, and which his followers believe is woven from the hair of female deities, is in Sikkim.

Our correspondent says this could add to the complications for the Indian Government, because China has never recognised Sikkim as a part of India.

The Karmapa Lama, the third most powerful person in Tibetan Buddhism, is the only person among the religion's senior figures accepted by both China and the Dalai Lama.

Correspondents say his escape, which has gone almost unreported in China's press, is certain to be an embarrassment to Beijing.

The Karmapa Lama escaped his Chinese guards at the 800-year-old Tsurphu monastery in central Tibet by saying he intended to go on a retreat.

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See also:
10 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Division in the flock
10 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Diplomatic jitters over Lama's visit
08 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Tibetan Lama meets spiritual leader
08 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Who is the Karmapa Lama?
07 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Analysis: Lama's flight embarrasses Beijing
18 Jun 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Panchen Lama returns to Tibet
11 Mar 99 |  From Our Own Correspondent
Tibetans keep their faith
10 Mar 99 |  Asia-Pacific
Dalai Lama seeks dialogue on Tibet
09 Jan 00 |  Asia-Pacific
Karmapa Lama goes into hiding

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