Low-key birthday for Dalai Lama

The Tibetan government-in-exile won't hold any celebrations to mark the Dalai Lama's birthday Sunday because of the ongoing suffering of the people of Tibet, an official said.

The Tibetan Buddhist spiritual leader turns 73.

"Tibetans all over the world will be praying today for the long life of the Dalai Lama. But as the situation in Tibet continues to be bad, we have decided to not hold any cultural song and dance event to mark the event," said Thupten Samphel, spokesman of the exiled government in the northern Indian city of Dharmsala.

Every year Tibetans in Dharmsala dress in their best traditional clothes and join the celebrations to mark the day. The festivities include cultural shows from the Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts, song and dance performances by school children and Tibetan artists.

Sweets are distributed and businesses remain closed to mark the event.

While some 2,000 exiles gathered at the Tsuglakhang temple in the city to pray and to listen to speeches by officials of the government-in-exile on Sunday, the celebrations of previous years were absent.

Violent anti-China protests that started in the Tibetan capital Lhasa on March 10 resulted in a clampdown by the Chinese authorities resulting in many deaths and arrests in the region, Tibetan activists and officials allege.

China has governed Tibet since communist troops marched into the Himalayan region in the 1950s. The Dalai Lama, who fled to India amid a failed uprising in 1959, has said he wants some form of autonomy that would allow Tibetans to freely practice their culture, language and religion.

Two special envoys of the Dalai Lama, who returned Thursday from Beijing after two days of talks with Chinese government officials, termed the talks as "one of the most difficult so far."

Lodi Gyari, one of the Tibetan envoys told reporters in New Delhi that he did not expect a breakthrough in the negotiations anytime soon, AP reported.

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