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Dalai Lama puzzled by separatist tag

November 20, 2007

Sat Nov 17, 3:40 AM ET

Tibet's spiritual leader the Dalai Lama on Saturday renewed his call 
for "meaningful autonomy" with China, saying he was puzzled why 
Beijing insisted on calling him a "separatist".

"We remain within the People's (Republic) of China provided the 
Chinese government should give us meaningful autonomy," the Nobel 
laureate told a news conference ahead of attending a religious forum 
in Ise, western Japan.

"The whole world knows" that he did not seek independence for Tibet 
from China, he said.

"As a result, some Tibetans and also some of our supporters are very 
critical about our stance," the Dalai Lama said.

"But the Chinese government officials still... continuously accuse me 
as a separatist. I don't know what it is," he added.

China, which sent troops into Tibet in 1950, opposes the 
international travels of the globetrotting Dalai Lama, criticising 
him of agitating for Tibetan independence.

The Dalai Lama, who fled for exile in India in 1959 amid a failed 
uprising in Lhasa, says he wants autonomy for Tibet within China.

He arrived in Japan on Thursday for a 10-day trip to tour Japan's 
holiest Shinto shrine of Ise, address public forums on spirituality 
and visit schools.

But the Japanese government has said that no officials will meet him 
and that it allowed the visit on the condition he did not engage in 
political activities.

The cold shoulder from Japan, which has uneasy ties with China, is in 
stark contrast to the growing embrace of the Dalai Lama by Western 
countries.

Last month, the United States defied China's protests and awarded the 
Dalai Lama the top congressional civilian honour.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Canadian Prime Minister Stephen 
Harper also recently became the first leaders of their countries to 
meet with the Dalai Lama.
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