Dalai Lama appeals for Tibet reforms

Other News Materials 17 May 2008 20:21 (UTC +04:00)

The Dalai Lama appealed Saturday for Chinese authorities to introduce reforms in Tibet.

Speaking in the city of Moenchengladbach on the third day of a visit to Germany, he referred to demonstrations by Tibetans in March and said, "As long as the conditions of life in Tibet don't change, such incidents will repeat themselves."

The exiled Tibetan spiritual leader has appealed for full autonomy for Tibet, but has said he does not seek independence from China.

"I cannot support violence," the 72-year-old leader told a crowd of several thousand Buddhists.

The Dalai Lama is set to visit Berlin on Monday and meet with one cabinet member, Aid Minister Heidemarie Wieczorek-Zeul.

That meeting has reportedly triggered tension between Chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been supportive to the Dalai Lama, and the ranking Social Democrat in her government, Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who has taken a more pro-Chinese stance.

Wieczorek-Zeul, also a Social Democrat, reportedly did not clear the sensitive meeting in advance with the foreign ministry. Merkel said several weeks ago she was not meeting the Dalai Lama because she would be abroad at the time.

Opposition politicians have feasted on the issue, claiming unity and discipline have collapsed in the Merkel government. Greens caucus co-leader Renate Kuenast said Saturday the cabinet was in "chaos."

The Tibetan spiritual leader was set to address supporters for 15 minutes on Monday at the capital's landmark Brandenburg Gate. City police said several groups had served notice of protests against his visit, but no violence was expected.

Junhui Zhang, a counsellor at the Chinese embassy in Berlin, attacked the Buddhist leader in an interview published Saturday.

He said the Dalai Lama's call for "true autonomy" was a covert demand for independence, the Frankfurter Rundschau daily reported.

Chinese communist forces invaded Tibet in 1950. Since the Tibetan resistance movement collapsed in 1959, the Dalai Lama has lived in India, where the Tibetan government-in-exile is based, dpa reported.