Page last updated at 08:49 GMT, Sunday, 23 November 2008

Dalai Lama urges Chinese contacts

The Dalai Lama (right) confers with confers with his ally, Samdhong Rinpoche, in Dharamsala on 20 November
The Dalai Lama (right) spoke after a week of talks among Tibetan exiles

The Dalai Lama has urged his fellow Tibetan exiles in India to improve contacts with ordinary Chinese people, saying he has always had faith in them.

By contrast, he argued, the Chinese government remained repressive in Tibet and he warned of "great danger" if the exiles did not exercise caution.

He welcomed a decision by exiles to back his policy of autonomy, rather than independence, from China.

The veteran leader, 73, also sought to end rumours he was planning to retire.

Speaking to exiles in the Himalayan town of Dharamsala, from which he has led the Tibetan cause for nearly 50 years, he said: "My faith in the Chinese people has never been shaken".

He said China was changing and the Tibetan movement should seek to take advantage of that.

But his faith in the Chinese government, he added, was "getting thinner", and he accused them of using "fear and ruthless suppression" to control Tibet.

''If we're not careful in our actions over the next 20 years, [they could] lead to great danger,'' he said.

Other options

Although Tibet has enjoyed long periods of autonomy or self-rule, China maintains that it has always been an integral part of its territory.

China says Tibet was always part of its territory
Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before 20th century
In 1950, China launched a military assault
Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising in 1959
Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama fled to India
Dalai Lama now advocates a "middle way" with Beijing, seeking autonomy but not full independence

Chinese Communist forces invaded Tibet in 1950 and have ruled there ever since.

Under the Dalai Lama's so-called "Middle Way" approach, Tibetans would essentially stop pushing for the re-establishment of Tibet as an independent nation.

Total independence was "not practicable", he told the meeting in Dharamsala, India.

"[The] majority of views have come up supporting the Middle Way path to the Tibetan issue... which is right," he said.

The Dalai Lama, who was treated in hospital with abdominal pains earlier this year, said of himself:

"There is no point, or question of retirement," he said.

He was speaking after a week-long meeting of representatives of the Tibetan movement concluded that if China made no effort to meet the Dalai Lama's demands, then other options, including calls for independence and self-determination, would be put forward.

Delegates also suggested that the Dalai Lama's envoy should not return to China unless attitudes changed in Beijing.

China's authorities in Tibet made clear in recent days that they believed the exiles were still bent on independence.

"The so-called 'Middle Way' is a naked expression of 'Tibetan independence' aimed at nakedly spreading the despicable plot of opposing the tide of history," said an editorial in the official Tibet Daily newspaper on Friday.

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Washington Post Dalai Lama Tells Exiled Tibetans to Be Prudent - 4 hrs ago
Washington Post Dalai Lama Urges Caution - 8 hrs ago
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Guardian Unlimited Isabel Hilton: Young Tibetans plan for life after the Dalai Lama - 12 hrs ago
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