Dalai Lama Says Loves China Despite 'Suppression'

February 23rd 2010

Los Angeles, California, USA, 22 February 2010 (AFP) - Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said he feels love in his heart for China but believes hardliners in Beijing are in denial over what he sees as the cultural suppression of his homeland.

"Sometimes you see some of these hardliners' sort of policy, brutalist policy, sometimes I got some irritation for short moment," the Buddhist monk told CNN talk-show host Larry King on a visit to Los Angeles.

"Still, yes, I have to sort of make effort to keep love," he said in the interview broadcast Monday evening. "We have to practice that."

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet in 1959 as China crushed an abortive uprising against its rule in the Himalayan territory. He has since lived in India and built a global following, despite China's attempts to isolate him.

The Nobel Peace Prize laureate met on Thursday at the White House with President Barack Obama, leading China to summon the US ambassador in Beijing to protest.

Beijing accuses the Dalai Lama of being a separatist. But the Dalai Lama repeated he is not seeking independence but only greater autonomy for Tibetans within Chinese rule.

"We do not want separation from China because Tibet -- landlocked country, materially backward. Every Tibetan wants modernized Tibet so for that reason remain within the People's Republic of China is our own interest," he said.

But he said Tibetans had complaints about Chinese policies, including on religious freedom and the environment.

"The Chinese government denies there is a sort of problem. They say Tibetans -- very happy, prosperity, very much better than previous Tibet," he said.

"But we received information from some inside... on cultural side, or religious ... so much suppression and control, restriction," he said.

The Dalai Lama conceded that his "Middle Way" approach -- pursuing dialogue and nonviolence to seek autonomy within China -- had failed to change conditions for those within Tibet.

"But that doesn't mean complete failure," he said.

"Our approach brings lots of support from Chinese intellectuals or writers and also many governments, now clearly including the United States government and the Indian government," he said.

The Dalai Lama turns 75 in July and has increasingly focused attention on the search for his successor, amid fears among Tibetans that China is waiting for his death to pick a pliant new spiritual leader.

In a separate interview with National Public Radio, the Dalai Lama said it was up to Tibetans to decide whether to continue his seven-century-old position.

"If majority of Tibetan people feel the Dalai institution is no longer much relevant, then this institution should cease -- there is no problem," he said.

"It looks like the Chinese are more concerned about this institution than me," he said with a laugh.

The Dalai Lama, who keeps a hectic schedule, said he felt healthy despite surgery in New Delhi in October 2008 to remove gallstones.

"Some people may have view that Dalai Lama has healing power. So since then scientifically proved Dalai Lama has no healing power," he joked on CNN.

China in 1995 rejected the Dalai Lama's choice to be the Panchen Lama, another high-ranking Buddhist leader, and installed its own boy in a ceremony overseen by the Communist Party.

The Dalai Lama's choice as Panchen Lama has since disappeared from public view, with rights groups calling him the world's youngest political prisoner.

The current Dalai Lama was born to a modest village family. When he was four, traveling holy men spotted signs that he was the latest incarnation in a line of spiritual leaders dating from the 14th century.

The Dalai Lama has previously voiced willingness to break tradition in finding his successor, floating the idea of identifying the next spiritual leader while the current Dalai Lama is still alive or selecting a girl.


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