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Dalai Lama visit to Mongolia canceled under pressure from China

August 25, 2014

August 19, 2014 - The Dalai Lama's planned visit to Mongolia this month has been canceled under pressure from China, which labels the Tibetan spiritual leader as a separatist, according to multiple sources knowledgeable about Tibetan Buddhist affairs.

With Chinese President Xi Jinping due to pay a two-day state visit Mongolia from Friday, the cancelation is believed to result from China's effective use of economic leverage on its landlocked neighbor, whose economy is highly dependent on China as an export market for mineral exports and as a source of investment.

The sources said Tibetan Buddhist circles began planning early this year for the Dalai Lama to visit the Ulan Bator, the Mongolian capital, in August to preside over a large-scale public Kalachakra, or tantric initiation, like one he held there in August 1995 that attracted 30,000 followers.

The Dalai Lama is enormously popular in Mongolia, where a majority of the population is Tibetan Buddhist. He has made eight visits there since his first in 1979, despite objections from China.

The sources said preparations for his ninth visit were suspended after a plan for China's leader to visit Mongolia the same month emerged and began to take shape.

The Mongolian Foreign Ministry has not commented on the Dalai Lama visit plan, except to say visits by religious leaders have nothing to do with the work of government.

But multiple sources said the government, under pressure from China, requested Tibetan Buddhist circles to cancel the planned events.

The Dalai Lama's last visit to Mongolia in November 2011 drew protests from China, which at the time said it opposes any country providing "a stage for the Dalai Lama's anti-China splittist activities."

The religious leader, who fled his homeland following a failed uprising against Chinese rule in 1959 and has since been based with his followers in northern India, insists he seeks genuine autonomy, not independence, for Tibetans.

Xi was invited by Mongolian President Tsakhiagiin Elbegdorj to visit his country at an early date when the two leaders met in Shanghai last May on the sidelines of a regional meeting.

During that meeting, Xi was quoted by China's official Xinhua News Agency as telling his Mongolian counterpart that the two countries, as good neighbors and partners, should support each other's "core interests and major concerns."

Elbegdorj responded that Mongolia will continue to firmly support China on Tibet-related issues and Taiwan-related issues, both of which China considers as "core interests," according to Xinhua.

Noting that the two countries' economies are highly complementary, Xi said China is willing to promote Mongolia's mineral resources exploitation and infrastructure construction, while extending financial cooperation and encouraging Chinese enterprises to invest in Mongolia.

During Xi's upcoming visit, which falls on the 65th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations, the two sides are expected to reach a number of economic agreements, including those on railway and pipeline cooperation.

The last visit by a Chinese president to Mongolia was in 2003 when Hu Jintao, Xi's predecessor, went to Ulan Bator. Since then, the two countries, which share a 4,720-kilometer-long border, have upgraded their bilateral ties from a good-neighbor partnership of mutual trust to a "strategic partnership."

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