China has a right to host the Games, Dalai Lama says

(iht) - The Dalai Lama said Thursday that he supported Beijing's hosting of the Olympics, but he insisted that demonstrators had the right to voice their opinions during the torch relay as long as they refrained from violence.

During a stopover in Japan on his way to the United States, the Tibetan spiritual leader said that no one should try to silence demonstrators against Chinese rule in Tibet. At the same time, he struck a conciliatory tone toward Beijing, apparently distancing himself from calls in the West for a boycott of the Olympic opening ceremony in August.

"We are not anti-Chinese. Right from the beginning, we supported the Olympic Games," the Dalai Lama said at a news conference at Tokyo's international airport in Narita. Speaking of pro-Tibetan protestors, he said nobody "has the right to tell them to shut up."

He also faulted Beijing for suppressing anti-government unrest in Tibet last month, saying its use of violence was "an outdated method" that did not solve the underlying problems.

That unrest, the most serious in the region in two decades, and the resulting Chinese crackdown have brought sympathy protests around the world calling for more freedom in Tibet. These included demonstrations that have disrupted the journey of the Olympic torch, most recently in San Francisco.

The protests have embarrassed Beijing, which had hoped to use the Olympics to showcase China's emergence onto the world stage.

In a separate statement Thursday, the Tibetan government-in-exile, based in India, said it did not support the disruption of the Olympic torch relay.

Beijing has blamed the Dalai Lama for masterminding the unrest in Tibet. On Thursday, he denied he was behind the disturbances.

"I really feel very sad the government demonizes me," he said. "I am just a human. I am not a demon."

He said the root of the problem was China's heavy-handed rule of Tibet, which he fled in 1959 after a failed uprising against Chinese rule. "Autonomy is just in name," he said, referring to China's position that it gives Tibetans a large measure of self-rule. "It is not sincerely implemented."

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