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"As long as human rights are violated, there can be no foundation for peace. How can peace grow where speaking the truth is itself a crime?"

The Dalai Lama - stumbling block between China and the West

November 28, 2008

EU Business
November 26, 2008

DHARAMSHALA - The Dalai Lama, at the centre of the latest row between
China and the European Union, is the exiled spiritual leader of
Tibet's Buddhists, a role which makes him both a darling of the West
and a political irritant for Beijing's leaders.

Considered a god-king by his followers, he has been a mainstay on the
diplomatic stage ever since he fled his native land for neighbouring
India in 1959.

Aged 73, and still based in northern India, the Dalai Lama has
increasingly been in the spotlight since protests in Tibet turned
violent in March this year.

The unrest occurred just months before the Chinese capital Beijing
hosted the Summer Olympic Games. The sporting extravaganza provided a
focus both for protests against China's human rights record and for
groups which seek either independence or greater autonomy for Tibet.

The Dalai Lama has denied claims by China, which invaded the region
in 1950, that he orchestrated unrest in March in an attempt to
sabotage the Olympics, which in the event passed off peacefully.

Regarded by his many supporters outside China as a visionary in the
vein of Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, the Dalai Lama was
awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1989 for his accent on non-violence
to achieve change.

However, he is reviled by the Chinese government, which has branded
him a "monster" and accused him of trying to split the nation.

As a young man the Dalai Lama fled his Himalayan homeland after a
failed 1959 uprising against Chinese rule.

Since then he has been a powerful rallying point for Tibetans, both
in exile and in their homeland, while frequently touring the world
and being a friend to kings, politicians, celebrities and the poor.

Born into a peasant farming family in the Tibetan village of Taksar
on July 6, 1935, Lhamo Dhondrub was chosen as the 14th incarnation of
the Dalai Lama at the age of two.

Considered a Buddhist Master exempt from the religion's wheel of
death and reincarnation, he was taken to the capital Lhasa's palace
to be trained to lead his people.

But as a teenager in 1950 he was called upon to become head of state
following the Chinese invasion.

He tried to keep the peace but the effort failed in 1959 when China
poured troops into the region to crush the uprising.

The young religious leader, disguised as a soldier, trekked for 13
days through the Himalayas and crossed into India, which offered him
Dharamshala as a base and allowed him to set up a government in exile there.

According to officials, at least 100,000 Tibetans live in exile in
India which, after fighting a war with China in 1962, barred the
Dalai Lama from using its soil as a springboard for a Tibetan
independence movement.

The Dalai Lama's original campaign to reclaim Tibet slowly morphed
into a plea to Chinese authorities for autonomy for his people.

He insists his moderate "middle path" approach to the impasse is in
the Tibetans' best interests. His religious title translates as
"Ocean Teacher," a metaphor for the depth of his spirituality.
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