Dalai Lama Says China Hardening Its Stance On Tibet

December 13th 2007

Rome, Italy, 13 December 2007 (AP) - Chinese authorities are taking an increasing harsh stance on Tibet, pushing Tibetans to seek greater support abroad, the Dalai Lama said Thursday during a visit to Italy.

Addressing lawmakers in the lower chamber of Parliament, the exiled spiritual leader said Tibet was not seeking independence from China but only wished to preserve its culture.

He said that, despite progress since 2001, Chinese officials in recent talks have 'intensified the accusation' of separatism and claimed 'there is no Tibetan issue.'

'Our right hand has always reached out to the Chinese government,' the Dalai Lama said. 'That hand has always remained empty, so with our left hand we appeal to you: help us.'

The spiritual leader was at the end of a 10-day visit to Italy that, like most of his recent international trips, has drawn criticism from China.

'The Dalai is not a pure religious figure but a political exile under the cover of religion who has long been engaged in activities aimed at splitting the motherland and national unity,' Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Qin Gang told reporters earlier. 'Therefore, we are opposed to any country in any form supporting or sympathizing with the Dalai's activities.'

The Dalai Lama's recent meetings with German Chancellor Angela Merkel and U.S. President George W. Bush drew similar rebukes from Beijing. The Dalai Lama insists he only seeks autonomy for Tibet, which China has ruled since 1951.

The Dalai Lama, who won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989, stopped in Rome for an annual summit of peace laureates organized by a foundation headed by former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.

No meetings were arranged with top Italian government officials. The Dalai Lama was received at the Chamber of Deputies by the house's speaker, Fausto Bertinotti, and he met later with Senate Speaker Franco Marini.

The meeting at the lower house took place in a side hall even though some lawmakers had petitioned Bertinotti to allow the Dalai Lama to address the entire assembly.

Nor were there plans by the Vatican for a papal audience despite earlier reports there would be one. The Dalai Lama met with Pope Benedict XVI last year, but his current visit comes as the Vatican has stepped up efforts to improve relations with China, and an audience would have angered Beijing.


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