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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."

INTERVIEW-Dalai Lama says China vulnerable in economic crisis

December 9, 2008

By Gareth Jones and Piotr Pilat
 
KRAKOW, Poland, Dec 7 (Reuters) - Tibet's exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama said on Sunday he believed China would have more difficulty tackling the global economic crisis than democratic countries.
 
The Buddhist leader also said he thought a diplomatic row between China and the European Union over a meeting he held on Saturday in Poland with French President Nicolas Sarkozy would soon blow over.
 
"The (global) economic crisis is serious, and it also impacts China, also India. I think for India, for democratic countries it is sometimes easier to handle these problems," said the Dalai Lama in an interview in the Polish city of Krakow.
 
"For a totalitarian, closed society these are new experiences."
 
The 73-year-old monk, who lives in exile in northern India, described the large gulf between China's wealthy coastal regions and its impoverished interior as "untenable" and said Beijing would have to embrace democracy in due course.
 
"No doubt, the People's Republic of China is a very important country ... its economy is getting powerful and so it deserves respect. But their totalitarian system is outdated, generally speaking, on this planet," he said.
 
"Under fear, how can you develop trust? ... Transparency is very essential."
 
Citing the advent of democracy in ex-communist countries such as Poland, he said: "The free world is the majority."
 
The Dalai Lama began his six-day tour of Poland on Saturday in Gdansk, where he attended celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of Polish pro-democracy icon Lech Walesa winning the Nobel Peace Prize.
 
PROTESTS
 
To China's anger, the Dalai Lama, also a Nobel Laureate, held talks in Gdansk with Sarkozy, who holds the European Union's rotating presidency. The monk shrugged off Beijing's protests, noting these often precede his meetings with world leaders.
 
"According to our past experience there is not much follow-up. China needs Europe," he said.
 
Chinese nationalists have called for a boycott of French products in protest against Sarkozy's meeting.
 
French companies were subjected to Chinese boycotts and demonstrations earlier this year after the Paris leg of the Olympic torch relay was disrupted by anti-China protesters.
 
The Dalai Lama said he appreciated Sarkozy's gesture.
 
"(Sarkozy) is showing very genuine concern about Tibet. I appreciate that, despite the difficulties and inconveniences, he stands firm about the principle," he said.
 
The Buddhist leader said U.S. President-elect Barack Obama had also shown interest and concern about Tibet's plight, calling him by telephone during the election campaign.
 
"I am quite sure after he becomes president he will carry continuously the very, very supportive (U.S.) policy regarding Tibet," said the Dalai Lama.
 
U.S. President George W. Bush has urged Beijing to open a genuine dialogue with the Dalai Lama, who says he favours self-determination, not independence, for his mountain homeland.
 
Asked whether he expected to see Tibet again, the Dalai Lama said: "I really feel like that ... if not, it does not much matter." Citing a Tibetan proverb, he said home was where you felt most happy.
 
The Dalai Lama fled into exile in India in 1959 after a failed insurrection against Chinese rule in Tibet, occupied by People's Liberation Army troops since 1950. (Writing by Gareth Jones; editing by Andrew Roche)
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