Page last updated at 05:03 GMT, Thursday, 22 May 2008 06:03 UK

Dalai Lama sees change in China

The Dalai Lami on why Tibet should keep some links with China

The Dalai Lama has told the BBC he believes China is changing and that this could lead to a "more transparent" attitude over Tibet.

In an interview with the Radio 4 Today Programme he said China's reaction to the devastating earthquake in Sichuan province was one sign of change.

Tibet's spiritual leader said he wanted a "middle way" of autonomy, despite calls for independence among Tibetans.

But he warned of growing frustration if there was "no improvement" in Tibet.

'Wider contact'

Speaking during a 10-day visit to London the Dalai Lama said he was "quite optimistic" about the future.

China was changing through "wider contact with outside world," he said.

Not only outside but even inside there are people who really are very critical about our approach, but so far OK, I think we can manage with these people
Dalai Lama

He cited China's efforts to deal with the recent earthquake that left tens of thousands of people dead in Sichuan province as evidence.

"This I think (is) one sign that the People's Republic of China is changing, I think at least decade by decade," he said.

"Hopefully now (this will) lead to a more transparent attitude in other fields, including the Tibet case."

The Chinese government has accused the Dalai Lama of being behind anti-China protests that began in Tibet's main city, Lhasa, on 10 March, and escalated into deadly rioting.

The Dalai Lama denies inciting any protests.

He has said regularly he is not seeking independence from China.

''We are not seeking separation," he told the BBC, adding that it was in the interests of both China and Tibet to stay together.

"Tibetan Buddhist culture can be a great contribution to enrich (the) cultural heritage of People's Republic of China," he said.

''Sooner or later we'll have to talk with China's government so the question of independence or separation is out of the question."

'Middle way'

Asked about opposition among followers who might favour taking a stronger line with China, he said different views and criticism were "welcome".

"On the question of autonomy we are committed to the middle way," he said.

"Defence and foreign affairs should (be governed by) the central government; but the rest of the business - education, environment, religious work - all these should be handled by Tibetans themselves.

"That is real, meaningful autonomy."

He acknowledged that there was internal opposition.

"Not only outside but even inside there are people who really are very critical about our approach, but so far OK, I think we can manage with these people," he said.

"But the longer time no improvement inside Tibet and ruthless suppression continue, then more frustration, then this view can increase."


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