Dalai Lama wants autonomy, not independence, for Tibet

The spiritual leader denies claims that he is behind the current turmoil in the region.

.SEATTLE (AP) – The Dalai Lama said Sunday that Tibet cannot make any more concessions to China and renewed his calls for the government to cease suppression in his former homeland and withdraw troops.

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader denied Chinese claims that he has called for Tibet to be split from China and that he is behind recent turmoil, saying instead that he is committed to pursuing Tibet’s right to autonomy.

“The whole world knows that the Dalai Lama is not seeking independence, nor separation,” he said at a news conference.

Recent protests in Tibet against five decades of Chinese rule have been the largest and most sustained in almost two decades and have fueled protests that have disrupted the global torch relay for this summer’s Olympic Games in Beijing.

“Our struggle is with a few in the leadership of the People’s Republic of China and not with the Chinese people,” the Dalai Lama said in a statement released after the news conference. “If the present situation in Tibet continues, I am very much concerned that the Chinese government will unleash more force and increase the suppression of Tibetan people.”

He said that if the Chinese stop such suppression and withdraw armed police and troops, he would advise all Tibetans to stop their protests.

A Chinese official said Sunday that the government had detained nine Buddhist monks and accused them of planting a homemade bomb that reportedly detonated March 23 in a government office building in eastern Tibet, according to China’s official Xinhua News Agency.

There were no known deaths or damage from the first reported bombing since anti-government demonstrations by monks began March 10 in the Tibetan capital, Lhasa.

Xinhua reported that the monks from the Tongxia monastery fled after a bomb exploded March 23. They later confessed to planting the explosive, Xinhua said. The agency did not explain why the incident was not reported earlier.

The Dalai Lama, visiting Seattle for the five-day Seeds of Compassion conference, told journalists Sunday that there have been some talks between representatives of his government-in-exile and Chinese officials.

The talks date to 2002 and some progress was made, but by July 2007 the discussions had deteriorated, he said. He did not elaborate.

The Dalai Lama repeated his promise to resign should the violence in Tibet continue. But he criticized China’s attempt to suppress demonstrations and encouraged any Tibetan protesters to conduct nonviolent demonstrations.

The Olympic torch is scheduled to pass through Tibet and India in a few weeks, and he said that if demonstrations are carried out, more hardship might come to the Tibetan people.

The Dalai Lama said he supports China’s ambitions to become a world superpower, saying that the country has achieved the economic and military might to do so but lacks transparency. If China wants to be a superpower, he said, it needs the world’s trust.

The economic rise of China has widened the gap between the rich and poor, he said. Along with issues coming from a “totalitarian regime,” China is seeing problems not only in Tibet, but also throughout the country.

“Particularly in China, everything is state secret; I think these practices are outdated,” he said.

The Dalai Lama fled to India after a failed uprising in 1959 in Tibet, but he remains the religious and cultural leader of many Tibetans. He was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989.