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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

Dalai Lama - a thorn in China's side

March 17, 2008

DHARAMSHALA, India (AFP) — Tibet's spiritual leader and symbol of hope
for his homeland, the Dalai Lama, has been a thorn in China's side ever
since he fled in 1959 after a failed uprising against Beijing's rule.

Even though the Buddhist "god-king" has repeatedly reached out to
Beijing seeking dialogue and cultural autonomy for his homeland, China
has denounced him as a "splittist" seeking full independence for Tibet.

And while his India-based government-in-exile says the latest deadly
violence racking Tibet is a spontaneous result of deep-rooted
frustration, China is accusing "a separatist Dalai Lama clique, inside
and outside the country" of masterminding a plot to oust the Chinese
from Tibet.

But the 72-year-old -- considered by many to be the world's greatest
moral force for non-violence -- is continuing to appeal to his fellow
Tibetans to use peaceful means to achieve their ends amid rioting in his
homeland that has come as the world's spotlight falls on China ahead of
the Beijing Olympics.

"I... urge my fellow Tibetans not to resort to violence," said the Nobel
peace prize winner, who espouses what he calls a "common human religion
of kindness" that extends to "all members of the human family."

Clad in the maroon robes of a monk, he is beloved for his contagious
laugh and engaging grin, set off by oversized glasses.

He has been a powerful rallying point for the six million Tibetans
living in exile or in their homeland, while also being a friend to
kings, politicians, celebrities and the poor.

The spiritual leader has stuck by his call for "cultural autonomy"
rather than independence for Tibet despite escalating his criticism of
China recently, accusing it of "unimaginable" rights violations.

The Dalai Lama fled Tibet across the Himalayas after a failed uprising
against the Chinese in 1959 and was given sanctuary in the northern
Indian mountain town of Dharamshala, where he set up a government-in-exile.

 From there, he launched a campaign to reclaim Tibet that slowly changed
to a plea to Chinese authorities for autonomy for his people.

His calming influence has bridged a divide between moderates within the
Tibetan government-in-exile and radicals, including sections of the
Tibetan Youth Congress, who oppose any deal with China outside of full
independence.

"Visionaries such as Mahatma Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King
Jr. have shown us successful changes can be brought about
non-violently," said the Dalai Lama in late 2007.

But moderates fear the latest violence could radicalise the movement.

"The use of force by China has caused great disturbance to Tibetans and
we fear the Tibetans will lose the direction" of what has been a mainly
non-violent freedom struggle, the government-in-exile's prime minister
Samdhong Rinpochehe told AFP on Saturday.

The Dalai Lama insists his moderate "middle path" approach of autonomy
is in the Tibetans' best interests.

Born into a peasant farming family in the Tibetan village of Taksar on
July 6, 1935, Lhamo Dhondrub was chosen as the 14th incarnation of the
Dalai Lama at the age of two.

He was taken to Lhasa's palace to be trained to become his people's
leader. But at 16 he was called upon to become head of state when China
invaded Tibet in 1950.

He tried to keep the peace but the effort failed in 1959 when China
poured troops into the region to crush an uprising and reneged on a
pledge to grant Tibet autonomy.

The Dalai Lama, disguised as a soldier, trekked for 13 days through the
Himalayas and crossed into India, which offered him Dharamshala as a base.

According to officials, at least 100,000 Tibetans live in exile in India
which, after fighting a war with China in 1962, barred the Dalai Lama
from using its soil as a springboard for a Tibetan independence movement.
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