China berates Dalai Lama visit to area near Tibet

AP News
Posted: Nov 10, 2009 9:56 AM

China lashed out at the Dalai Lama's visit to a disputed border region in India on Tuesday, saying his trip to the area revealed the exiled Tibetan leader's separatist agenda.

In a now familiar tit-for-tat response, the revered Buddhist figure and Nobel Peace Prize winner defended his trip, saying it had been overly politicized by others.

The Dalai Lama has been holding prayer meetings and teaching sessions with adherents in the Himalayan town of Tawang, near the frontier with Chinese-controlled Tibet.

China has repeatedly criticized his weeklong visit to the northeastern Indian state of Arunachal Pradesh, which Beijing also claims as its territory.

The trip began Sunday after months of rising friction between India and China.

"We oppose the Dalai Lama's visit," China's ministry spokesman Qin Gang said at a regularly scheduled news conference.

The Dalai Lama's visit to the disputed area "fully reveals his essential nature of splitting the motherland, but his plot is doomed to failure," Qin said.

Qin also criticized India for having permitted the visit above China's objections.

In an interview with India's Times Now television news channel in Tawang, the Dalai Lama dismissed the criticism from Beijing.

"I'm simply a Buddhist monk and all my conduct where I go (is) basically nonpolitical," he said.

The Dalai Lama also recalled entering Tawang from Tibet following a harrowing escape from his palace in the Tibetan capital of Lhasa amid an abortive uprising against Chinese rule in 1959.

"A lot of anxiety, anguish and also a sense of hopelessness, helplessness like that," he said.

Arunachal Pradesh is one of two disputed border regions claimed by both China and India, who fought a border war in 1962 and have had stretches of increased tensions ever since.

India has responded to China's demands to call off the trip by saying the Dalai Lama, who has lived in exile in India since fleeing Tibet, was an honored guest and free to visit any part of the country.

China regards the Dalai Lama as seeking formal independence for Tibet, which it claims has been Chinese territory for four centuries. The Dalai Lama says he seeks only a high level of autonomy under Chinese rule for the Himalayan region, although many of his supporters say Tibet was effectively an independent country for most of its history.

On Monday, Indian officials restricted access to the Dalai Lama by journalists covering the visit in an apparent effort to minimize tensions with China.

The relatively muted tone of Qin's comments also appeared to signal a desire by Beijing not to further aggravate the dispute.

U.S. officials say they expect President Barack Obama to discuss Tibet with Chinese President Hu Jintao on a visit to Beijing next week, along with issues of freedom of speech and religion and strengthened rule of law.