Dalai Lama Backs Uighur Leader Amid Protests From China

September 10th 2009

Prague, Czech Republic, 10 September 2009 (AFP) - The Dalai Lama voiced support for Uighur leader Rebiya Kadeer in Prague on Thursday ahead of joining her at an Asian human rights conference whose line-up has drawn loud protests from China.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's spiritual leader, and Kadeer were to be guests at the conference in Prague later Thursday organised by the Forum 2000 foundation co-established by former Czech dissident-turned-president, Vaclav Havel.

"I'm very much impressed. Unlike some other local people... she (acted) totally, strictly non-violently," the Dalai Lama told reporters.

Chinese authorities have accused Kadeer, head of the World Uighur Congress, of fomenting violent unrest between Uighurs and Han Chinese in China's Xinjiang province that left nearly 200 people dead and more than 1,600 injured in July.

The 62-year-old adamantly denies the charges and accuses China of repression against the Uighurs, a predominantly Muslim people who speak a Turkic language.

"And second, unlike some other local people who want independence, she fully agreed with my stand - she also prefers a meaningful autonomy, not separation," the Dalai Lama added.

China, which reacts angrily to any country hosting the Dalai Lama, has now slammed the Czechs for hosting Kadeer.

"We strongly protest against her visit and the Czech side must clearly understand that it may worsen our mutual relations," the DNES daily quoted Chinese embassy spokesman Chen Jia-jun as saying.

But the Czech Foreign Ministry said in a statement Kadeer's visit was "of a private nature and could not be interpreted as a change in our traditional One-China policy."

The Dalai Lama also stressed his visit to Prague was strictly non-political, saying he had come to promote "human value and religious harmony."

But he called on the Chinese government to "implement fully all the rights mentioned in the Constitution... in our land... (which) would be helpful for stability, unity and harmony."

"The present Chinese policy relies on using force. Force brings fear. Fear destroys trust. And if we don't trust, we can't develop harmony," he added.

The 73-year-old has been a mainstay on the diplomatic stage ever since he fled his native land that was absorbed into communist China for neighbouring India in 1959.



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