Dalai Lama lecture draws thousands in Poland amid Chinese protests

Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama drew thousands to a lecture in the capital on Thursday amid warnings from Beijing to respect China's interests, reported dpa.

The Dalai Lama's visit to Poland sparked protests from China when he earlier met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and prompted China to cancel two upcoming summits with the European Union.

In Warsaw, all tickets to the lecture were grabbed up within hours, with lines curving around a major sports hall before the event. The city's mayor welcomed the Dalai Lama to the "city of freedom," saying Poland itself traveled a difficult road to democracy.

Polish President Lech Kaczynski had also met with the spiritual leader, sparking a further reaction with China warning Warsaw of creating impediments to Chinese-Polish relations.

The Dalai Lama drew laughs at the lecture when he put on a visor for shade against the stage lights, or popped a candy into his mouth and hid the wrapper under his robe. Despite the difficult life he's had as a refugee, he said, he's kept inner-peace.

"At the age of 16, I lost my freedom. At the age of 24, I lost my own country," he told the crowd. "The news from our home, in most cases, is sad news. ... Therefore, a compassionate mind is very very useful to keep your mental peace."

"With that inner peace," he said, "no matter how complicated the situation, you can maintain your peace of mind and you can handle the problem."

China, which claims Tibet as part of its territory, generally frowns upon foreign leaders meeting with the Dalai Lama, whom many Tibetans see as a symbol of national independence. The Dalai Lama, 73, fled Tibet after an abortive uprising against China in 1969 to set up the Tibetan government-in-exile in India.

The Dalai Lama was in Poland to attend celebrations marking the 25th anniversary of former Solidarity trade union leader Lech Walesa's receiving the Nobel Peace Prize.

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