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Tibet's language, customs fading away: Dalai Lama

March 10, 2008

BEIJING, Mar 9 (Reuters) - Tibet's language, customs and traditions
are fading away and Tibetans live in fear as they become an
insignificant minority in their Himalayan homeland, the Dalai Lama
will say in a speech on Monday.

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, will urge the
international community to call on China to respect freedom of
expression during the Beijing Olympics, according to an advance copy
of his statement obtained by Reuters.

Monday marks the 49th anniversary of an uprising crushed by the
Chinese People's Liberation Army, driving the Dalai Lama, now 72, into
exile in India.

"The language, customs and traditions of Tibet ... are gradually
fading away," the Dalai Lama will say in the speech from Dharamsala,
the north Indian hill station where he lives.

Tibetans "have had to live in a state of constant fear, intimidation
and suspicion under Chinese repression", he will say.

"Repression continues to increase with numerous, unimaginable and
gross violations of human rights, denial of religious freedom and the
politicization of religious issues."

As a result of China's policy of population transfer, the non-Tibetan
population has increased many times, reducing Tibetans to an
"insignificant minority in their own country ... I urge the Chinese
government to bring an immediate halt to such policies," the Dalai Lama will say.

The atheist Communist Party has competed against the Dalai Lama for
the loyalty of his people but the 1989 Nobel Peace Prize winner
remains the single most important figure in Tibetan life.

China has defended itself saying it ended centuries of serfdom and has
poured billions of dollars to develop Tibet and raise the living
standards of the impoverished, predominantly Buddhist region.

Turning to the Olympics, the Dalai Lama will say he has supported
Beijing hosting the Games from the very beginning, dismissing an
accusation by China's top official in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, that he was
trying to "sabotage and cause trouble."

The Dalai Lama will urge the international community to urge China to
prove itself a good host by respecting freedom of expression during
the Games.

"The world should ... explore ways of investing their collective
energies in producing a continuous positive change inside China after
the Olympics have come to an end," he will say.

The Dalai Lama will have no harsh words for Chinese President Hu
Jintao, who said last week stability in occasionally restive Tibet had
a bearing on the stability of China as a whole.

The Dalai Lama will welcome China's emergence as a powerful country
thanks to its economic progress, but he will prod China to improve
observance of the rule of law, transparency, the right to information
and freedom of speech.

Despite "no concrete result" in talks between China and the Dalai
Lama's envoys, the Dalai Lama will say his "determination to pursue
the middle-way policy and to continue our dialogue with the Chinese
government remain unchanged."
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