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"We Tibetans are looking for a legitimate and meaningful autonomy, an arrangement that would enable Tibetans to live within the framework of the People’s Republic of China."

Dalai Lama keeps reaching out to Beijing despite rebuffs

August 11, 2008

August 10, 2008

DHARAMSHALA, India -- Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama has
kept reaching out to Beijing, despite being vilified by China as
"mastermind" of a drive to sabotage the Olympics and destabilise the country.

Just days before the Games in Beijing opened Friday, the exiled
Buddhist god-king sent "his prayers and good wishes for the success"
of the Olympics and called the event "a moment of great pride" for
the 1.3 billion Chinese people.

The spiritual leader's conciliatory words came even though China has
repeatedly accused him of seeking to "destroy" the Games and of
fomenting unrest in Tibet to embarrass Beijing -- charges he has
strenuously rejected.

The Dalai Lama has been a regular on the diplomatic stage for decades
in his quest for more cultural autonomy for his remote Tibetan homeland.

He was thrust back into the spotlight when peaceful protests in Tibet
flared into deadly violence in March, casting a shadow over the Games
which Beijing sees as a showcase for its rising status.

Exiled Tibetan leaders say 203 people died in the clampdown, although
China has reported killing just one Tibetan "insurgent" and accused
"rioters" of being responsible for 21 deaths.

Clad in the maroon robes of a monk, he is loved by supporters for his
contagious laugh and engaging grin, set off by oversized glasses, and
is regarded by many as a visionary equal to Indian independence icon
Mahatma Ghandi.

His title translates as "Ocean Teacher," a metaphor for the depth of
his spirituality. But the Nobel peace laureate has been branded by
China as a "monster" trying to split the nation.

The Dalai Lama fled his Himalayan homeland after a failed 1959
uprising against Chinese rule. He champions a non-violent campaign
for greater "cultural autonomy" for the region from his exile base
here in northern India.

Leaders such as Gandhi and the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. "have
shown us successful changes can be brought about non-violently," the
Dalai Lama says.

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.

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.

Considered a Buddhist Master exempt from the religion's wheel of
death and reincarnation, he was taken to the capital Lhasa's palace
to be trained to lead his people. But at 16 he was called on 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 and allowed him to set up a government-in-exile.

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.

The Dalai Lama's campaign to reclaim Tibet slowly morphed into a plea
to Chinese authorities for autonomy for his people. He insists his
moderate "middle path" approach to the impasse is in the Tibetans'
best interests.

His calming influence has so far managed to bridge a divide between
moderates within the Tibetan government-in-exile and hardliners who
oppose any deal with China short of full independence.

But moderates fear the recent violence in Tibet could radicalise the movement.

"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
non-violent freedom struggle, the government-in-exile's premier
Samdhong Rinpochehe said recently.
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