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Dalai Lama tells China: I'm no demon

April 11, 2008

NARITA, Japan April 10, 2008 (AFP) — The Dalai Lama, starting his first
foreign trip since unrest broke out in Tibet, on Thursday renewed
support for the Beijing Olympics and appealed to China not to brand him
as a demon.

Tibet's exiled spiritual leader said he has personally urged the Tibetan
community to respect the Olympic torch relay, although he also defended

people's right to protest in his homeland.

The Dalai Lama, meeting reporters on a brief stopover in Japan on his
way to the United States, jokingly put his fingers over his head to
represent

horns.

"I really feel sad the government there almost demonises me. But it's
OK," the Dalai Lama said of China. "I'm just a human being -- hopefully
not a

demon."

"Some people create (the) impression we are anti-Chinese. So I make an
appeal to Chinese brothers and sisters all over the world, particularly in

mainland China -- firstly we are not anti-Chinese."

Tibet last month saw the biggest protests in years against China's
controversial rule on the anniversary of a failed 1959 uprising that
sent the Dalai

Lama fleeing into exile in India.

Beijing has accused the Nobel peace laureate of instigating the deadly
violence and of seeking to split the predominantly Buddhist Himalayan
territory

from China.

The Dalai Lama repeated on Thursday that he is seeking Tibetan autonomy
and cultural freedoms within China -- and that he supports the right of

Beijing to host the Olympics in August.

"I support the Chinese host for the world game because China is the most
populous nation, ancient nation," the Dalai Lama said.

"They really deserve" the Olympics, he said. "In spite of the
unfortunate event in Tibet, my position has not changed."

China's clampdown has triggered international outrage, with major
protests during the Beijing Olympic torch relay in London, Paris and San
Francisco.

The San Francisco stop was less chaotic after authorities ordered
hundreds of police onto the streets and changed the route to throw off

protesters.

"In fact, after some troubles in London, I sent a message to Tibetans in
San Francisco area: Please do not make any violent activity," the Dalai
Lama

said.

But he also defended Tibetan protests to China.

"Of course the expression of their feelings is up to them. Nobody has
sort of rights to say, 'Shut up,'" he said. "Actually one source of
problem inside

Tibet is there is no freedom of speech."

"This crisis is an expression of their deep resentment."

The Dalai Lama is due to start his US tour with a series of lectures on
spirituality in Seattle. He said his visit to the United States was "not
political."

The Dalai Lama's lectures on faith have won him a wide global following,
including in Japan.

But Japanese leaders, unlike many of their Western counterparts, have
almost always refused to meet with the Dalai Lama, whose frequent world

travels are opposed by China.

Japan has had uneasy ties with China due in part to the legacy of
Japanese aggression in the 1930s. But Japan has been working on improved

relations with China, its largest commercial partner, in a process
launched by then premier Shinzo Abe in 2006.

The Dalai Lama nonetheless met at a hotel near Narita airport with Akie
Abe, the former premier's wife, although he did not hold talks with any

government officials.

The Tibetan leader smiled and put his hands together in a traditional
Buddhist greeting as several dozen supporters cheered him on at the
airport,

holding Tibetan flags and signs reading "Free Tibet -- We are friends."

"I'm here to show support from the bottom of my heart for the Dalai Lama
and Tibet," said Kumi Shimada, 39.

"It's OK even if I can't meet His Holiness. I just want to encourage
him," she said.
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