Dalai Lama to attend Olympics - if China invites him

(dpa) - The Tibetan government-in-exile, in its latest effort to open talks with China to end the unrest in Tibet, said at the weekend the Dalai Lama can attend the Beijing Olympics if China invites him.

"If China invites him, he can attend the Beijing Olympics, but under one condition, that is there must be a relaxation of suppression in Tibet," Prime Minister Samdong Rinpoche said in Dharamsala, the exiled government's base in north India.

"China must release all prisoners in Tibet and treat the injured. Otherwise, if the Dalai Lama goes to Beijing to watch the opening of the Beijing Olympics, how would Tibetans feel?"

In an interview with Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa, the red-robed monk officially expressed frustration at China's refusal to talk with the exiled government to quell the unrest in Tibet, which has reportedly left at least 135 Tibetans dead and thousands injured and arrested.

The riots, which were to mark the 49th anniversary of the 1959 anti-Chinese uprising and to seek world attention on the Tibet issue ahead of the Beijing Olympics in August, climaxed on March 14 when Chinese troops and police cracked down on the protesters.

China said the Dalai Lama, in exile in Dharamsala since 1959, incited the riots, and accused Tibetans of burning, looting and killing Chinese.

The Dalai Lama has denied involvement. His government said it had received information that the looters and attackers were Chinese police disguised as Tibetans.

Faced with China's accusations, the Dalai Lama reiterated his non- violence stance and told the world he supported Beijing's holding the Olympics and disapproved of any boycott of the games.

He even offered to travel to Beijing to hold talks with Chinese leaders to find a solution to the Tibet issue, but Beijing has ignored his offer.

In Dharamsala, home to 150,000 Tibetan exiles, people are disillusioned with the Chinese government and are worried by reports that China's crackdown has intensified.

"The repressive measures are tightening, and China is deploying more troops in Tibet," Samdong Rinpoche said in his office, built on the slopes of the Himalayan foothills.

When asked if there is a long-term solution to the Tibet problem, he raised one finger: "The only long-term solution is the implementation of the autonomy provisions in the PRC's constitution" in which Beijing grants Tibet "genuine autonomy," he said.

The PRC is the People's Republic of China.

But China seems in no hurry to solve the Tibet problem. With their fast-growing economic and military power, Chinese leaders believe time is on their side, despite an international outcry around the Tibet incidents.

In fact, there are rumours that Beijing is playing the waiting game: when the Dalai Lama, now 72, dies, Beijing plans to name its own reincarnation of him to use as a puppet ruler in Tibet.

Hearing this, Samdong Rinpoche chuckled.

"It is far from a rumour, it is real. Some time ago there was even a rumour that the Dalai Lama was suffering from terminal illness. What I want to say is: the Dalai Lama is in excellent health and he can remain active for at least 15 years," he said.

"Even if he passes away, he will be reincarnated in a free country," he said. If Beijing claimed to have found his reincarnation, that boy would be a fake.

Samdong Rinpoche said that the search for the reincarnation of the Dalai Lama is a complicated religious process.

"The deceased lama will release some indications before he dies. These indications will be analysed, and then the search starts."

When the 10th Panchan Lama, the second highest religious leader in Tibet after the Dalai Lama, died in 1989, China hid away the boy picked by the Dalai Lama as his reincarnation and named its own reincarnation of the Panchan.

But Tibetans refused to accept the Beijing-selected Panchan, calling him "China's Lama."

China last year enacted a law banning temples from naming the reincarnation of lamas without the central government's approval.

Tibet-China conflicts date back thousands of years. For some 2,000 years, Tibet was an independent Buddhist kingdom with religious and cultural ties with China.

But in 1949, after the founding of the communist PRC, Chinese troops entered Tibet to "liberate" Tibetans from the "feudal system of serfdom."

China, which originally pledged full autonomy to Tibet, completed its occupation of the region in 1959.

After an abortive uprising against the occupation, the Dalai Lama fled to India to set up his government-in-exile.

The Dalai Lama is the spiritual leader of 6 million Tibetans, 130,000 of whom are in exile.

The Tibetan government-in-exile has built 54 settlement camps and welfare offices in India and Nepal to receive and settle Tibetans, who risk their lives every year to cross the snow-capped Himalayas to come to Dharamasala to see the Dalai Lama.

Since 1959, between 2,500 and 3,000 Tibetans have arrived in Dharamsala via Nepal, trekking 20 days to three months across mountains and paying 4,000-6,000 yuan (600-900 dollars) to their guide.

At the Dharamsala reception centre, 70 Tibetan refugees, including 31 who arrived Wednesday, are waiting for an audience with the Dalai Lama before the Tibetan government-in-exile sends them to school or finds them work.

Lobsong Cheophei, 15, walked three days and rode a jeep with six other Tibetans for five days before reaching Nepal from Lhasa.

"I want to see the Dalai Lama, I want to go to school here, I want to live in freedom," he said, pulling up his T-shirt to display a Dalai Lama pendant, which is hung around the necks of many Tibetans.

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