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Dalai Lama warns of 'great danger' facing Tibetans

November 25, 2008

AFP
November 23, 2008

DHARAMSHALA, India (AFP) - The Dalai Lama warned Sunday of the "great
danger" facing the Tibetan people as he addressed leading exiles who
vowed continued support for his policy of seeking greater autonomy from China.

"My trust in Chinese officials has become thinner and thinner," the
Tibetan spiritual leader told nearly 600 delegates after a week-long
review of the Dalai Lama's strategy towards Beijing.

"In the next 20 years, if we are not careful in our actions and
planning, then there is great danger to the Tibetan community," he
said in the exiles' base in the northern Indian town of Dharamshala.

On Saturday, representatives from the global Tibetan movement ended
their meeting by backing the Dalai Lama's "middle way" policy of
talks with Beijing seeking what they call meaningful, or greater,
autonomy for Tibet.

The decision was a disappointment for those groups who had favoured a
shift towards an unequivocal demand for full independence.

"After frank and candid discussions... the majority decision was to
continue the policy of 'middle way,'" said the meeting's final
statement released on Saturday.

However it added their patience was not unlimited, and that the
opinions of delegates who wished "to pursue complete independence or
self-determination if no result comes out in the near future were
also strongly expressed."

The Dalai Lama had called the conclave after admitting his attempts
to secure concessions from China had failed to achieve a breakthrough.

But many delegates were reluctant to drop the policy instigated by
their leader, saying any shift would lose Tibetans international
support and further antagonise Beijing.

"His policy is practical," Jamyang Jinpa, a 29-year-old monk who
attended the meeting, told AFP. "It's one that can move with the times."

Lhadon Tethorg, a pro-independence delegate and New York president of
Students for a Free Tibet, said the week had left her with mixed emotions.

"We are in a democratic system, but the opinion of the majority may
not be the right one," she said.

The meeting had no policy-making power but the exiled Tibetan
parliament should view its outcome "as a form of research," said the
Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 following a failed uprising
against Chinese rule.

On Friday he was again accused by China of covertly campaigning for
independence -- a view that the meeting's conclusions were at pains
to disprove.

He stressed that the meeting's support for autonomy was uninfluenced
by his own views.

"I deliberately remained silent to allow for free expression," he
said on Sunday, explaining why he had not attended the event.

Before the meeting, he had said he needed guidance due to the lack of
progress in talks with China.

In March, protests against Chinese rule in the capital, Lhasa,
erupted into violence that spread to other areas of western China
with Tibetan populations.

Tibet's government-in-exile said more than 200 Tibetans were killed
in a subsequent Chinese crackdown.

Among the meeting's recommendations was a plea for the Dalai Lama,
now 73, not to repeat recent comments that he was winding down his
active duties.

He had to cancel trips abroad after being hospitalised in August and
also underwent gallstone surgery last month.

The delegates urged him "to continue to shoulder responsibility of
the spiritual and temporal leadership of the Tibetan struggle at this
crucial time by not stating even a word of semi-retirement or retirement."

But the Nobel peace prize winner disappointed them, telling reporters
that "my position has long been semi-retirement."

"I am a human being and I also have human rights," he said with a
grin. "The majority of decisions are taken by the prime minister. I
act as his senior adviser."

However he stressed the divide between his official and spiritual
roles, saying "my moral responsibilities will always be there until my death."
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