Page last updated at 15:11 GMT, Monday, 16 March 2009

Karmapa softens stance on China

The Karmapa
The Karmapa Lama is the third most important figure in Tibetan Buddhism

The Karmapa Lama, often seen as Tibetan Buddhism's third-highest figure, has spoken of his admiration for Chinese culture.

The comment made in an interview with the BBC Chinese Service suggested a willingness to co-operate with China.

He said he backed the Dalai Lama's policy of seeking greater autonomy for Tibetans rather than independence, but blamed Beijing for deadlocked talks.

The 23-year-old exiled monk, Ogyen Trinley Dorje, is tipped as a possible compromise candidate to succeed the ageing Dalai Lama.

China has refused to recognise the boy identified by the Dalai Lama as the Panchen Lama - the second most senior figure - detaining him and appointing its own candidate.

There is also some controversy over the identity of the Karmapa Lama, with some Tibetans recognising another monk in preference to Ogyen Trinley Dorje.

But Ogyen Trinley Dorje has been confirmed by the Dalai Lama, and has also been recognised by Beijing.

Peaceful resolution?

Ogyen Trinley Dorje fled Tibet in 1999 to Dharamsala in India, the seat of the Tibetan government-in-exile.

In a rare interview, he told the BBC that his feelings toward China had warmed since leaving Tibet, and that he had embraced elements of Chinese culture - learning to speak Mandarin fluently and also watching Chinese films.

China says Tibet was always part of its territory
Tibet enjoyed long periods of autonomy before the 20th Century
1950: China launched a military assault
Opposition to Chinese rule led to a bloody uprising which began on 10 March 1959
Tibet's spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama, fled days later and crossed into India on 31 March 1959

He said he fully supported the Dalai Lama's approach to relations with China, but blamed Beijing for the current stalemate over the political status of Tibet.

At the latest round of stop-start talks with Beijing last November, China condemned the Tibetans' proposals as a bid for "disguised independence".

"We can only wait for China to become more open and more democratic.

"The [Dalai Lama's] Middle Way Approach would then be more important because it advocates not separation from China but keeping Tibet as part of China."

China accuses the Dalai Lama of plotting to separate Tibet from the motherland, and of fomenting unrest.

The Karmapa said he hoped that the political issue of Tibet could be resolved peacefully, saying it would be in the interests of both Tibet and China.

"If there is a chance [to improve relations], I will do whatever I can," he added.

He said the Tibetan government-in-exile had become more democratic, and that the tradition of one Dalai Lama succeeding another need not be followed.

"I just wish there could be more people to take part in the competition [to become leader]", he said.

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