Dalai Lama reiterates support for Beijing Olympics

The Dalai Lama, Tibet's exiled spiritual leader, on Saturday said he backs China's right to host the Olympics after Beijing reportedly charged he was trying to sabotage the summer Games.

The statement came after media reports on Friday said China's top official in Tibet, Zhang Qingli, had accused the Dalai Lama of trying to "sabotage this important event and spread rumours."

In a statement issued in Dharamshala, the northern Indian hill station where the spiritual leader's government-in-exile is located, the Nobel peace prize winner said "it is common knowledge that His Holiness the Dalai Lama has consistently supported the right of China to host the 2008 Olympic Games.

The Dalai Lama called the Chinese official's accusation "highly inflammatory."

The spiritual leader said the Chinese official had quoted from a "distorted interview" with a British television network carried out in January to accuse him of seeking "to sabotage the forthcoming Beijing Olympics."

Referring to questions about whether he backed calls by Tibet support groups for a Games boycott, the Dalai Lama said he had already stated "that it was too radical."

However, the Dalai Lama said Tibet support groups "could remind the international community, including the Chinese people, about the repression and urgency of the situation in Tibet."

The Dalai Lama is frustrated by China's refusal to discuss "cultural" autonomy for Tibet, but sees a window to sway public opinion ahead of the Olympics in August, analysts say.

His statement came a day after Chinese authorities warned preparations had been made to stop campaigners opposed to China's rule of Tibet from protesting in the Himalayan region before and during the Olympics.

Pro-Tibetan independence groups have sought to use the Olympics as a platform to publicise their cause with publicity stunts in Tibet and Beijing.

In April last year, five Americans from Students for a Free Tibet were expelled from China for staging a demonstration on Mount Everest in which they called for Tibetan independence.

In August, during celebrations to mark the one-year countdown to the Games, another six foreign free-Tibet activists staged a two-hour protest on the Great Wall near Beijing and were promptly kicked out of the country.

China has ruled Tibet since 1951, a year after sending troops in to "liberate" the devoutly Buddhist region, and has violently suppressed a number of uprisings since then.

The Dalai Lama, who fled Tibet in 1959 after a failed revolt against Chinese rule, has set up his government-in-exile in Dharamshala.

The Dalai Lama has accused China of what he called "demographic aggression," saying his people had been reduced to a minority in Tibet under Beijing's rule.

He also says he wants autonomy for Tibet rather than independence, a demand that China rejects.

Copyright © 2008 AFP

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